By Jennifer Bosavage, CRN11:00 AM EST Tue. Nov. 16, 2010

When Dave Sobel, CEO of Evolve Technologies, came up with a five-minute way to load Windows XP onto an Apple iPad, he didn’t issue a press release or create a piece of collateral for the company’s press kit. Instead, he posted a video on his Facebook page showing just how he did it.

Sobel related the story during “Social Media, Separating Fact From Fiction,” an on-demand session at COMDEXvirtual, noting that the response he received was enormously positive. COMDEXvirtual is hosted by CRN parent company Everything Channel. The show takes place November 16 – 17, and sessions are available on-demand until May 17, 2011.

It wasn’t just the amount of attention the video received (50,000 hits and 2,000 additional visitors), but rather, the quality of the responses it brought in for the Fairfax, Va.-based solution provider. “Our Web site is designed to track visitors, so we know exactly who’s visiting us, and those people became instant leads. We knew specifically what they were interested in: Our ability to deliver this application on the iPad.”

Sobel joined Marvin DeJean, director of marketing at United Data Technologies (UDT), Miami, Fla.; Jessica DeVita, owner of UberGeekGirl, Inc. a technology consultant in Santa Monica, Calif.; and Josh Gibbs, assistant director of marketing and social media at Everything Channel, Framingham, Mass., in a discussion of how technology businesses use social media to showcase their expertise — and to track down business leads.

For DeVita, using social media has helped her build a network of like-minded individuals. Recently, she worked on a pro bono project for a Los Angeles school ad used Twitter to raise awareness of her business and the work it was doing.

“It’s because of the work I’ve done in social media, that when folks need help in Los Angeles for a client, whether it’s a celebrity or a business, I know that they’ll think of me.”

The main thrust for businesses using social media tools, such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, is to create “Return on Engagement.” UDT uses social media technology to create a feed for the communities it hosts on its Web site — which in turn creates traffic for the company’s Web site and awareness of UDT’s offerings.

NEXT: Picking The Right Platform

DeJean’s goal, was to create a feed for the UDT Web site by putting content on Facebook and Twitter, thereby driving people to communities on the site. UDT has created specific community groups through which participants can share information.

“It lets us really listen to the conversation and know what changes are going on in their industry,” said DeJean. “What are they interested in? What are their thoughts on certain products and solutions?” By plugging in that way, UDT has been able to create sales prospects straight from social media.

Platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have offered marketers a powerful means of getting the word out about their products and services. Gibbs coined the term, “cloud marketing,” which refers to the ubiquitous nature of marketing today: “[Taking] everything you have as a marketing resource and putting it out in the cloud.”

Getting employees and customers alike familiar and comfortable with social media is crucial to success, panelists said. “I show them how I use each of these tools, and I give a little demo. What that does is give them a safe way to see how I use these tools … and that really gets them comfortable,” said DeVita. “If they really express an interest, I help them create their own profiles and connect them to people they already know. That gives them a launching pad to see where these tools can take them.”

Finally, a level of commitment is necessary to reap the benefits of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Gibbs advised executives to check in frequently, much as they might look at e-mail. Blog posts and comments need to be shared generally on a regular basis, whether that’s daily or weekly. Also, some campaigns work better on certain platforms.

“Talking to professional organizations, it’s definitely LinkedIn,” said Gibbs. “Twitter is really good for brand recognition. You’re able to push out ideas and establish yourself as an opinion leader. There’s what I call the 80/20 rule on Twitter: 80 percent of the time, you need to push out content that’s interesting. The other 20 percent you can promote yourself … If you want to talk to your customers on a really casual level, use Facebook. You can make a blog, anything you want.”

Jessica

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