A few months back one of our portfolio companies did something unexpected - the results were even more unexpected. At Hummer Winblad we often joke that we focus on the "boring side of software". By this we mean that many of our companies tend to be described with words like core, infrastructure, B2B, backend, etc. We believe that these companies provide the infrastructure under which the next generations of software are built. They will be interesting and successful companies but it is unlikely your mom will ever know their names.
What we don’t usually expect is for our companies to make YouTube videos.
The team over at vKernel did exactly that. Here is a company that is busy making the system management tools to help enterprises cope with the explosion of virtualization in their environments...and driving traffic from a YouTube video. The team made a quick parody of the now-classic PC-Mac advertisement to talk about the fight against companies that solve this problem with bloatware.
Bloatware companies (the PC) are big, cumbersome products that are IT intensive to use and packed with hard-to use features. Counter that with vKernel (the Mac) where they are using virtual appliances as their model for one product to solve one problem.
You can see the video here.
The message worked - they don’t have a huge volume of hits given that the average YouTube search is more likely to be "Britney Spears" not "virtualization system management". But in the first day they had prospects that jumped straight to the qualified lead status.
This kind of social media marketing is covered in a book by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff called Groundswell. In the book I was introduced to another "boring" software company that has a whole series of successful YouTube videos. Greg the Architect is the new social media evangelist for the SOA vendor TIBCO. Greg happens to be a Ken doll but if you care about things like ROI around SOA then you might be one of the 75,000 viewers of his videos...an impressive following. [anyone looking for SOA, please take a look at Mulesource, the opensource ESB portfolio company]
My hat goes off to vKernel and TIBCO for riding the groundswell in their respective markets. I think you will be seeing a lot more social media from both companies based on this success.
If you are looking to do something similar at your company I would suggest reading Groundswell where the authors give lots of background on how to gauge your customers and target the community with the right tools.