Company draws attention to its more than 30 feeds through a successful Rock the ReTweet Twitter campaign.
The popularity of social networking is nothing short of shocking to the older generation, who value privacy, but many of today's more forward-looking thought leaders are starting to find business opportunities in the technology behind Facebook and Twitter. One of the more successful users of social networking is Avnet, Inc., whose Technology Solutions group sold $3 billion in IBM technology solutions and services during the company’s last fiscal year and pushed year-over-year growth in IBM sales past 20 percent for fiscal 2010.
Those results were due to many factors but are indicative of an attitude of openness toward new ways of doing business that have resulted in Avnet's generating revenue of more than $19 billion for the company's 2010 fiscal year ending last July. As the old saying goes, you can't argue with success.
Avnet and IBM this fall celebrated 25 years of doing business together, a remarkable run that has seen their relationship grow and mature into a truly global business partnership. The partnership milestone was recognized last October at the Avnet Technology Solutions–IBM Partner Summit held in San Antonio. A number of major initiatives emerged from the conference, which had more than 850 attendees. These included new education and service "paths," or "practices," in mobile and collaboration technologies, as well as new paths in energy, finance, and retail vertical markets headed by new leaders with deep industry experience.
As a technology distributor, Avnet has gone the extra mile in providing a value-add to its "repackaged" goods and services. Because technology constantly is changing, people who sell and install it need to know what they're talking about if they expect to be successful. Enter Avnet with extensive training curricula to help VARs and ISVs understand and implement new technology solutions. Not only do you have to understand the technology, but you need to know which direction the technology market is heading. Many IBM Business Partners have made bets on technology that didn't pay off based on false assumptions and over-hyped technology. Avnet collects and sifts market data to help keep their channel partners' feet on the ground. So when a company such as Avnet ramps up an extensive Twitter campaign, it might be a wise move to pay attention.
Avnet, Inc. is a Fortune 500 company and one of the world's largest distributors of electronic components, computer products, and embedded technology with customers in more than 70 countries. Its role is to connect leading technology suppliers with more than 100,000 customers around the world.
To get the word out to its numerous audiences about new products, training, and various Avnet initiatives, the company uses Twitter. It currently has more than 10,000 people following its band of 30 Avnet tweeters. Twitter feeds include @avnetadvantage, the main Twitter feed for Avnet Technology Solutions in the Americas, as well as a host of specialty Twitter feeds that run the gamut from information for design engineers @avnetdesignwire to "all things Avnet" from Avnet's chief communications officer, Al Maag @almaagavnet and "all the news that's fit to print" (a takeoff on the New York Times slogan) channeled through Avnet tweeter Michelle Gorel, @michellegorel.
Avnet Electronics Marketing Americas, which focuses on the semi-conductor industry (as opposed to Avnet Technology Solutions, which distributes IT solutions, including those from IBM), recently completed a month-long Twitter promotion called Rock the ReTweet Twitter campaign. Every Avnet Twitter follower who re-tweeted, or re-sent, an Avnet message to their own list of followers was entered into a weekly drawing for an iPod Nano. The company gave away four iPods through the end of November, when the contest ended. More than 800 Avnet Twitter followers participated. It is believed the re-tweeted messages went out to thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people. What's more, the contest was for followers of @avnetdesignwire exclusively, merely one of the dozens of Avnet Twitter feeds.
For the uninitiated, Twitter allows anyone to sign up for a free account that allows you to send out 140-character messages—including links and, lately, even graphical material. Other Twitter account holders then choose to "follow" you, thereby enabling them to receive your messages (they can also stop following you at their discretion). You, in turn, can "re-tweet" other tweeters' messages out to your followers.
For the contest, Avnet sent out messages over the @avnetdesignwire "feed" and asked followers to re-tweet them to their followers, a group to whom Avnet otherwise wouldn't have access. But Twitter lets you know if your message has been re-tweeted, so Avnet could track who was participating in the contest. The IDs of the re-tweeting followers were then entered into a drawing pool. At the end of the week, one of the Twitter followers, known as, say, @bfuller9 (an actual winner), would be chosen at random and notified, and the conversation on how to retrieve their iPod Nano prize would be taken "offline"—either onto email or by phone, since 140 characters is limiting.
One difference between marketing with Twitter versus marketing with email is that Twitter followers can leave (and stop getting information) any time they feel like it if they aren't receiving what they deem relevant. We all know what it is like to be on someone's email list and to receive a constant stream of material in our inbox that we don't really want. Also, tweeters must earn the loyalty of followers in order to have them start following in the first place. You can't just buy a list and start tweeting to it. People have to choose to follow you.
Avnet was one of the early adopters of Twitter as a means of getting information out to its partners. Two years ago, it set up special booths at conferences in order to encourage people to sign up for a Twitter account and start following one or more of the Avnet Twitter feeds. At the time, attendees either were playfully amused or thought it too silly to participate, but not anymore. The information that they are receiving has earned their attention and respect.
For its part, Avnet is satisfied with the results of the November Rock the ReTweet contest. Ian Basey, vice president of marketing for Avnet Electronics Marketing Americas, says, "The contest has been tremendously successful. Not only have we seen a large volume of participation, but we've also exposed our customers to new ways to communicate and interact with Avnet."
The communications staff that sends out the tweets on the @avnetdesignwire feed is proud of both their following as well as their content. "The @avnetdesignwire Twitter feed delivers the latest information from Avnet Electronics Marketing," says Bethany Helvie, Avnet senior marketing and communications specialist. "From business news, to new product announcements, to upcoming training events and videos, this feed delivers everything design engineers need to know in 140 characters or less."
People talk about "the information glut" and how everything in the world is going increasingly fast. Perhaps the solution is to just say what you have to say in 140 characters and let it go at that. The rest is likely superfluous anyway.