Brian Fuller's blog on the media, marketing and content creation

Analog Devices Gets More Digital

Posted on | June 15, 2009 | 1 Comment

Summary: Analog Devices today unveiled a new social-media community for its customers, Engineer Zone, designed to drive conversation about digital signal processor (DSP) technologies and products.

Analog Devices is an old-line semiconductor company that’s starting to get more serious about new media. Today the company unveiled a new social media community built on the Jive platform — Engineer Zone-DSP Support Forum — that’s designed to help customers and prospects get more and more timely information about ADI technology and products directly from ADI.

Rob DeRobertis, director of marketing at ADI, said:

“We have a broad base of customers, in the tens of thousands. You can reach out to them more easily this way. We look for ways to engage that long tail. In addition, how do we engage without having to send out an FAE to support a query? So we’re building community to support it.”

I interviewed DeRobertis last week for a story I’m writing for EDN about social media use among engineers and engineering companies (Aside: I still have time if you want to contribute. After the story runs, I’ll break out companies into individual posts here on the Ghost). ADI has been building community for years (going way back to the old BBS days), but it’s only recently that the $2.5 billion company has dipped its marketing toe in the social media waters.

Why Engineers and Social Media are Different

Partly this is due to the cautious nature of electronics marketing in general; partly this is to the paradox that the people who help enable the Internet and social media (engineers) are among the last to adopt the tools. ADI’s early efforts yielded few comments from the audience. In addition, some of the executives marketers tapped to blog did so enthusiastically but briefly. Efforts at ghost-blogging for executives, which solved the production problem, weren’t transparent enough for ADI’s liking.

Yet it was control that helped drive this current Engineer Zone push. Technical, third-party communities have always thrived in the semiconductor world, (comp.arch.embedded etc.) and ADI was (and is) indirectly supported by a number of independent analog- or DSP-centric communities. But sometimes the content on those third-party forums, at least from ADI’s perspective, was not up to snuff. Andy Rose, ADI’s community manager, told me:

“Our apps manager gets customer calls saying ‘we saw a Blackfin (DSP) posting that was negative,’ and it turns out the posting was incorrect. That’s when we realized we need to take a look at this and become involved.”

Scaling Community

Engineer Zone, which will expand to other technologies and product lines, is part of a slow-and-steady approach to social media that ADI has adopted, according to DeRobertis. The company has launched a few Twitter feeds for corporate news and products, such as Blackfin.

But the temptation to lurch after each shiny new object is not what it might be in more consumer-focused businesses. In an industry where most vendors know their customers, the value not of building community but of building the right community is key. And that takes time.

Said DeRobertis:

“There is caution in how we follow stuff, and we’re extremely skeptical. We don’t usually chase shiny objects in general.”

DeRobertis says the company will find its sea legs with this new community, and then focus later on figuring out ROI.

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One Response to “Analog Devices Gets More Digital”

  1. Social media's rising impact in the engineering world |
    July 16th, 2009 @ 5:02 pm

    […] June, I blogged about work going on at Analog Devices on the social networking front.   Since, EDN has posted the article, I’ll post some more detailed take-outs based on my […]

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