Intel’s Community Marketing: Fishing Where The Fish Are

Intel is known for trying out a variety of social media efforts, for better or for worse. They experiment, and continue to learn and iterate, I give them continual credit and reference them in presentations. One particular activity of note is what I learned from David Veneski, he tackled the join vs build question and made the call to join.

Earlier this year, I visited Intel up in Seattle (correction: Portland) and spoke to David Veneski, a marketing manager, and spoke to his group about social computing strategies. He had deployed some successful marketing efforts, and reached communities where they existed, he had efforts to reach early tech adopters in Digg, as well as Slashdot. Both of these communities are rabid passionate tech communities that are self-thriving and require little attention from outside sources to be successful.

[Savvy brands join communities where the exist, rather than solely trying to coax customers to the corporate website through disruptive tactics]

In the case of Digg, Intel funded development of new features, and became a sponsor of the creation of “Digg Arc” a visualization feature. This associative play tied the Intel name with early tech adopters, as well as got dugg. Next they brought forth some of Intel’s top engineers to have a conversation with the Slashdot community, and apparently it was so successful that the amount of questions became unwieldy to respond to.

The moment of brilliance was when David said that one of the requirements of his marketing efforts was to not link to Rather than try to join a community then pull them away, the marketing efforts joined the community and stayed there –likely where the trust is highest (see data).

As a result, David fished where the fish were, and avoided trying to suck the members off the community they were part of. Marketers are often measured on the amount of traffic they generate to their corporate website, but in this case, Intel will have to measure using different attributes such as interaction, viral spread, and maybe even a survey.

Rather than coax users to your irrelevant corporate website, savvy brands will fish where the fish are.

41 Replies to “Intel’s Community Marketing: Fishing Where The Fish Are”

  1. As always. Great insights Jeremiah.

    I like this line the best: David said that one of the requirements of his marketing efforts was to not link to

    Smart. Users don’t want to be pulled away from the ecosystem that they are in to some lame brand or corp website. Yanking them away is web1.0 mentality and not tolerated by many users any longer.

    I like the fact that they experiment. This is what brands need to be doing in this new evolution of online engagement and conversations.


  2. Very interesting post. Your story confirms a sense that I have about the new wave of marketing: most are sick of directly being told to buy a product or use a service, but would rather come to that conclusion on their own. Subtle influence (the new wave) rather than heavy handed dictation(the old methods – direct advertising) are becoming far more effective. The companies that “join” consumers by engaging them where they prefer to hang out rather than “beat” them over the head will bring in the larger “catch.”

    Best regards,

    Martha (advocatesstudio)

  3. Did David share any actual results? did top of mind scores move? were purchases impacted? “asking lots of questions” is not a metric that can be handed back to the CEO.

    But I do agree that going where the customers are is something I’ve been pushing since the mid 90s.

  4. Allen,

    You should measure this the same way you measure your corporate PR. (ahem, most companies do not)

    Seriously though, I could quantify this if I needed to, but it would have to first measure based on their objective, which I’ll bet is Awareness or increase in brand consideration. I could then measure interactions as the primary attributes but would ultimately have to conduct surveys before and after to conclude if the effort increased consideration.

    I don’t have specific numbers from David, but I’m sure I could chat with him to discuss this for a case study.

  5. Nice post Jeremiah.

    I think you are right on that many companies are actively debating the “build vs join” question…and in many cases my go down the wrong road (build) simply due to sheer uncertainty of the path less taken (join).

    Would be interesting to see if the “join” sites will start to offer metrics back to Intel an other interested parties to define these new attributes you speak of. (interaction, viral spread,…)

    (Since it is not a home game, companies like Intel will not have the same easy access to user actvity data.)

    – How many views did this post get?
    – From where?
    – How long did that user stay?
    – What are most active conversations related to Intel, keywords etc.

    While the “join” sites IME tend to use more more outdated tools & freeware systems, this might be an opportunity for white-label providers to upgrade them…not only with new features & functionality, but also a new business model.

  6. Great post. This issue is facing membership-based or affinity-based non-profits (like alumni associations) that are still trying to build private “online communities.” They can’t understand why their alumni spend hours in Facebook but won’t log in to the alumni association home page on the .edu site. Savvy associations are living in the white label networks, participating in the discussions and not relentlessly linking back to Your response to Allen about metrics is useful too – for our organizations (the non-profits) we can measure awareness and, indirectly, giving.

  7. Ahh. Great as always and with my favourite quote, go fishing where the fish are 🙂 at a right time!

    Writing a blog post on who will be the Al Gore for Social Media, the one person that will make it all clear and understandable for business leaders the same way Al Gore put the pressure on climat issues. The quote “The moment of brilliance was when David said that one of the requirements of his marketing efforts was to not link to” is so important and points out the shift of thinking that is needed.

    The question is if the human natures need of control and the desire of doing it all ourselves instead of daring (and wanting) to use the collaborative knowledge will hinder the process to move on widely in all businesses. When so many business still do not even want to link out from their webpage…we need an Al Gore – a business role model! Any suggestions who? That we can use in Europe too…

  8. You’ re right Jeremiah, brands should fish where the fishes are.

    It allows community managers and their hierarchy to actually see what is going on in these places, and this is certainly a good learning curve for everyone.

    But I see strong shortcomings to this.

    First, it may appear as a strategy, but most of the time, it just means that the brand is not able to gather participants. They go to Facebook because they have no trafic on their site, or to user forums because people don’t trust them.

    It may well appear as a sign of weakness soon, if it is not balanced by conversations on brand own playfields…

    If a strategy, it is a short term strategy. As a company, you can’t only rely on third-party properties to do your work. You also have to build your own place if you want people to recognize you as a proud brand.

    Channel or Zegna do have “corners/stands” at Saks or Bloomingdales, but they also have their own retail stores. Look at Apple Retail Stores, do they bring something to Apple ? Of course.

    Apple has chosen to build their retail stores and get people come to it, not fish where the fishes are.

    I think “web stands” on FB, twitter and the like are part of a overall social media strategy, but they are definitively not the only way to go.

  9. Thanks for the reply Jeremiah – awareness is not something I would be measuring with a product base like Intel’s. Also, these campaigns are marketing campaigns and thus need to be tracked well – otherwise they face the axe as times get tough. Awareness items are typically the first to go.

    In addition, when you compare intel’s chips to most consumer goods, there’s a huge difference.

    I’d also suggest that early adopters already know about Intel’s products and therefore the needle may move but it will be tiny.

    We’ve got to get to real measurement or risk a huge downturn in funds being allocated to these types of campaigns.

  10. And believe me, I could go on for days… Intel is getting some seriously poor advice. They paid for the Digg arc to get some traffic.

    Then you have this “social media experts” campaign (?) they are running now. Give some bloggers a mac laptop (which has no Intel stickers) and get them to write some posts about how great Intel is – more paid posts.

    So I guess I would say yes, I’d love to see a case study with real numbers, etc. Thanks for proposing this idea.

  11. Excellent.

    This is what I tell my clients as well. They are so anxious to build something new. They want to capture an audience rather than befriend one.

  12. This is a good example of Intel fishing where the fishes are. From the event/conference perspective (both online and offline), this is a key question that is being raised – build or join. In the end, it really will depend on what the company’s goal is, if there is an established community, and how you can add value to the conversation.

    @Allen – regarding measurement. You have a point about measuring the value otherwise it risks being cut. However, for companies like Intel, they also realize that increasing marketing during the downturn while their competitors decrease efforts, will provide an economic boost on the other side of the recession. Why? Because Intel is top of mind when companies loosen up budget for capital expenditures.

    I argue that social media is a less expensive form of brand marketing, then say print and broadcast ads. Do you agree?

  13. Especially in the case of Intel, why in the world would a brand manager want to drive traffic to the corporate site. Intel doesn’t sell a product that can be purchased directly by the consumer (for the most part). This activity is all about reinforcing the brand so the goal should be to drive interaction with their personality online and not one-sided corporate literature.

  14. David was also a letter winner on the University of Oregon Track & Field and Cross Country teams.

  15. I hear you about the strategy, but what exactly is the ROI from staying where the fish are, and not linking to corporate sites? From a marketing standpoint, can they say concretely what they’re gaining besides a hunch about “trust”?

  16. Jalal

    Previous web marketing strategy is about getting customer to come to your products. (search marketing, direct mail, banner ads)

    Although we’ve yet to see many companies do this, but why not:

    Put the products where the customers already exist?

    Jalal, at some point, we’ll evolve and eCommerce will join communities where they exist.

    Intel is a special case, as a ‘component’ product (not a ‘consumer product), they’re seeking consideration, and trust is part of that factor.

  17. Jeremiah (and some info for Allen) –

    I would be happy to work with you on a Case Study that brings in numbers other than ‘awareness’. While awareness is definitely part of the media mix for Intel, it is actual ‘interaction’ and participation in the conversation that I am aiming for. In addition, I am very keen on building an environment that promotes loyalty to the space we’ve created. We’ve done that with several efforts – increasing repeat and loyal visitors exponentially during the life of the programs and tailoring those programs based on what the community is looking for. I can bring several examples to the table in a Case Study.

    Being an ingredient brand, it is difficult to get a direct association of our efforts to sales, as getting sales out data from OEMs and Retailers (other than boxed product) has proven to be, let’s say, a challenge at the very least. However, that’s not to say we haven’t had some key interactions in our social efforts that can be directly related to actual sales on the enterprise front and some new alliances due to connections made through a specific expert symposium we held.

    I won’t plug the programs here as I don’t want to take away from Jeremiah’s intention on this post – let’s start that Case Study and bring forth some stellar results.


  18. Last weekend at the Thin Air Summit in Denver you said that PR has always been challenged with measurement. Now, social media is faced with the same issue. I agree with your thinking – fish where the fish are – but how do you measure that in numbers and dollars? In this economy, we need to be able to justify the cost of “testing”. Calls to action can don’t have to be a link back to the corporate website but if you’re going to test something make sure it’s measurable.

  19. As I mentioned measurement is difficult. Sure we can measure engagement, but tying it directly to increased sales hasn’t been done.

    Why? well it’s simple. eCommerce and social media haven’t yet married.

    Something to watch in 2009

  20. Great post and best said as:

    It is better to market through the community than AT the community.

  21. Did David share any actual results? did top of mind scores move? were purchases impacted? “asking lots of questions” is not a metric that can be handed back to the CEO.

    But I do agree that going where the customers are is something I've been pushing since the mid 90s.

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