Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

Marketing Software the Social Media Way

By Dennis D. McDonald

  • Author’s note: I wrote this in October 2007 but forgot to publish it till today. Is it still relevant? You be the judge!

In Marketing middleware socially Paul Gillin discussed why social software is already used in connection with the marketing of middleware:

The reason social media marketing works so well in these fields is precisely what you mention: their complexity. Most problems can’t be predicted in advance, so people rely on each other to help figure out solutions.

Thus, “people relying on each other” leads to the formation and maintenance of “communities” that include both developers and users.

There are other factors to consider when discussing the role of social media in the development and marketing of software that is complex enough to require an organized IT department for installation, configuration, operation, and support.

One important consideration is deciding on the “entry point” that will be made to the customer’s organization by the seller when the selling process is initiated. 

If the entry point for selling and then delivering and supporting software is the customer’s I.T. department, members of this “community” can use social media and software to communicate with each other at an appropriate technical level. This is one reason we see developer and support communities surrounding many different types of software where problems, issues, bugs, patches, and requirements are discussed among community members. In these situations distinctions between “seller” and “buyer” becomes blurred.

Open source software models rely on such communications, as do companies operating under more traditional business models. Software companies, both large and small, can openly encourage technical communications via discussion forums, blogs, wikis, instant messaging, webinars, and online video.

Again, traditional distinctions between marketing and development — at least when viewed from the outside —can be blurred, as when community-developed code is fed back to a common or open source code base. Another common practice is to foster development of a developer community by publishing tools or a software development toolkit, then provide a communication forum where developers can communicate.

What if the “entry point” for selling software into a company is located not in I.T. but in the executive suite or in departmental management? Is a social media supported development and support community still relevant?

This will depend on, among other things, whether the company and its industry have adopted social media already in communicating about the business. A software company that sells products and services into target markets where I.T. involvement is important, but where the purchasing decision maker is located elsewhere, may find it necessary to establish a different social media strategy. In fact, some may find it useful to have at least three “social media strategies” to support its marketing:

  1. Strategic Message Focus. Here conversation messages deal with strategic business issues. Examples of tactics include executive focused blogs, and establishment of networks or forums on topics such as succession planning, “baby boomer” brain drain, outsourcing, competition, innovation, and sustainability. If the software company’s own products are used in support of these efforts, so much the better
  2. Business Message Focus. Here the conversation message deals with functional or departmental problems that are internally or externally focused. When tied to specific business problems or processes, the focus of conversations will frequently be related to revenue enhancement, efficiency, speed, agility, and cost. Industry and process credibility will be necessary for the software company that takes this route; conversation participants need to know that you know what you’re talking about.
  3. I.T. Message Focus. This was discussed earlier in the context of media that allow conversations to take place between software developers and technical software users. Perhaps the most significant aspect of this particular use of social software to support software marketing is the democratizing impact that modern communications have on software development and support.

You don’t have to be Microsoft or SAP to employ social media in software marketing. But you do have to be willing to “open up” the technical communications that accompany development and testing processes and must be willing to relinquish control over discussions of your products in return for open and honest access to a community’s intelligence and expertise.

  • Written October 21, 2007. Published August 21, 2008.
  • Copyright (c) 2008 by Dennis D. McDonald

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