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March 12, 2009


Brave New Media World

by deirdrewalsh
New Media Columbus

Modified from portrait of Christopher Columbus by Ridolfo Ghirlandaio.

When I first took on the role of Community Manager and Social Media Strategist at National Instruments, I felt like an electronic Christopher Columbus, navigating and exploring the Brave New Media World.   Then, I quickly began my own revolutionary war — preaching the ways of new media.  I identified social media foot soldiers in places like advertising, events, corporate communications, and design.  Their job was to influtrate the current governing body and find ways to utlizile the wonderful user-generated content that exists in places like blogs, forums and online communities in the more traditional forms of marketing communication.  Luckily, we had the support of corporate leadership (just another reason I love working for NI!).  

Our methodology has paid off.  Recently, Forrester Analyst Josh Bernoff made the folowing statement in a Groundswell blog post:

 “National Instruments makes technical content from its customer community central in its marketing activity –  this is a model other B2B sellers should follow.” 

Thanks, Josh! 🙂 

Part of this recommendation stems from Forrester research that shows B2B buyers have very high social participation for both work and business — which just makes sense.  When I’m evaluating a new product for work, like a social media monitoring platform, I’m highly likely to turn to my network on Twitter, read relevant blog posts and create reviews based on my trail version.  

While this all “sounds great,” I’m sure many of you are wondering what does that actually mean.  Here are some specifics: 

National Instruments encourages users to participate in discussion forums, exchange example code, contribute technical tutorial and videos, and even blog right on our domain.  This helps ensure the success of our users.  Since no one idustry represents more than 10 percent of our revenue, it is key for NI to connect like-minded customers and get information from subject-matter experts.  Additioanlly, it is good for Web traffic.  Currently, 40 percent of all visitors come into user-generated and technical content on the site.  

Managing this content and the users is the “communiy manager” part of my job, while the social media strategist side works with the  “foot soldiers” to utilize this great UGC throughout marketing.  For example, in our award wining online and print newsletters,  NI News and Instrumentation Newsletter, we have dedicated sections in each issue that highlight user-generated content as well as innovative community members.  This helps encourage repeat participation, adds third-party credibility to our story, and helps domain experts looking for specifics on a given topic. 

Someone recently asked me — should social media be integrated into marketing or be its own department?  And I think right now it’s a bit of both.  Just because your on Facebook, doesn’t mean you are Facebook strategist; however, if your social media program does not have a clear handshake with the rest of marketing it will not be successful.  Ashley Brown, at Brilliant Magazine, got me thinking that pretty soon New Media Managers will just become Media Managers.  Unless, we all jump on the semantic Web bandwagon.  🙂 

For B2B companies, considering testing out “new media,” don’t be afraid.  If you have clear goals and integration with the rest of your marketing efforts, it will be a great success.  



3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Mar 15 2009

    Hey Deirdre, you have any thoughts on the hand shake a company community has with external communities? 100% merging brings liability issues. Ignoring them brings isolation. middle ground?

  2. Mar 26 2009

    Hey, Chris! Good to hear from you. That’s a really good question.

    As the community manager for the communities, I think it’s key for us to have handshake with all of the external social media outlets (forums, user groups, communities, blogs, etc) that focus on us or our products, especially LabVIEW. The strength of the handshake depends on a number of factors, like the quality and quantity of the external outlet, how much participation from NI the site wants, the nature of our in-person relationship with the owners, etc.

    I’ve found over the last few years, external social media sites, especially communities, want more participation from businesses since it helps their overall cause. There is no longer a walled-garden mentality from a number of our customer-driven outlets.

    For example, when I first became the LabVIEW community manager in 2007, I was hesitant to post on the external site LAVA – which is a customer run community focused on advanced LabVIEW programming. Over the years, I’ve built a solid relationship with the creators and now jump in to offer marketing resources (like discounts or coding contests) on the site as well as promote high-quality things they are doing directly on

    On the other hand, I’ve seen some smaller groups — like the Orange County LabVIEW User Group — migrate from an externally hosted site, to collaborating directly on since they don’t have to pay a hosting fee and can work directly with NI sales force in that region to ensure content is kept up-to-date.

    Let me know if you have more specific questions and I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic.

  3. Dec 14 2009

    Great blog its very helpful and easy to understand. For more ideas or just to add links check out There are blogs there about website design, development, Search engine optimization, and hosting. Most of these blogs are tutorials that you can repost just be sure to reference the page you get them from if adding them to your blog. Again thank you for this blog.

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