Company: Serena Software
Contact: Michael Parker, Senior Director, Global Marketing
Location: Redwood City, CA
Industry: Software/Internet technology
Annual revenue: $270,000,000
Number of employees: 900
Apparently, Facebook users want to "@#$%" themselves. In this case, "@#$%" stands for "mash it" and refers to Serena Software's Business Mashup Composer, which simplifies the process of combining data and visual elements from multiple sources into a single process-driven format.
Serena wanted to educate the marketplace, especially sales and IT professionals, about both its product and mashups in general, since the term itself was not well recognized and so hampered the company's marketing efforts. The company already knew it wanted to use video, having had previous success with the medium, and decided to try out Facebook, despite the channel's reputation for negligible results.
"We are big proponents of using video to get our message out, and we believe in viral tools and mediums to reach out to audiences," said Michael Parker, senior director of global marketing at Serena Software.
Working with video production company Brief Attention Span and social network video marketing platform provider Involver, Serena developed a video Facebook application that used non-intrusive, interactive elements and an amusing "@#$%" reference to garner the attention of business professionals networking on the site.
Within a month, Serena's Facebook video received well over 1 million views and helped escort more than 8,000 users to the company's campaign Web site, for a click-through rate of 0.72%—more than 14 times the industry average.
In early 2008, Serena Software released the software as a service (SaaS) version of its Business Mashup Composer, which allows users to combine data and visual elements from multiple sources into a streamlined process-driven framework that can then be connected with multiple back-end or cloud-based (i.e., remotely owned and hosted) systems.
The problem was, few in the marketplace understood what a mashup was, and more time was spent describing the term than actually promoting the service.
To build awareness for both the product and the terminology, the company teamed with Brief Attention Span of Oakland, California to create a video campaign, which was released on YouTube and the Serena Web site in March 2008. The video, titled "Just @#$% It," used a pseudo-reality-show format resembling TV's "The Office" and bleeped out every use of the words "mash" and "mashup" to intrigue its viewers. The concept worked, and the video has generated over 1 million views to date.
Playing off that success, Serena was determined to next specifically reach out to IT, sales and business professionals who could recognize the value in its services. "There is a specific pain point between IT and Sales that we knew we could solve," said Michael Parker, senior director of global marketing at Serena Software.
Facebook, which Serena already used as its company intranet, stood out as a medium that was as forward-thinking and viral as YouTube but more capable of targeting these individuals. Industry statistics, however, showed that Facebook's advertising click-through rates averaged a low 0.05%. The ensuing challenge, therefore, lay in beating those odds and making Facebook a viable medium for building awareness in Serena's target market.
Working with San Francisco-based Involver, which provides an end-to-end video campaign platform for advertising on social-networking sites, Serena created its own Facebook "I'm a Super Masher" application, which debuted at the end of June.
The application centered around a new "Go @#$% Yourself!" video (where "@#$%" = "mash it") produced by Brief Attention Span that once again bleeped out all mashup references in a similar format, this time relaying a situation between an IT help desk professional and a sales operations manager.
Involver's platform enabled user interaction at the time of viewing with call-to-action buttons that prompted users to take the following actions:
- "@#$% IT!," which took users to the Serena site where they could fill out contact information to receive a brief on Business Mashups
- "SIGN UP," which allowed users to provide contact information directly in the player
- "DISCUSS," which displayed community comments on the screen and allowed users to add their own comments
- Join the Facebook Super Masher group (for non-members)
Another button adjacent to the video player invited viewers to share the video; code for embedding the video outside of Facebook was displayed below the player.
In addition to the video, the application included the following:
- Links to Serena.com: "Get Free Software Now" and "Learn to Mashup in 3 Steps" buttons were strategically placed high up on the group homepage and transferred users to the Serena site to enter contact information and download either the brief or the software itself. "Download Mashup Composer Free!" and "Download a Free Prebuilt Mashup!" links were also displayed in the group message area and connected users to Serena's software download page and its Pre-Built Business Mashups Downloads resource.
- Member rewards: To encourage social interaction, points were awarded to users who shared the video, invited friends to join the group, or sent stars (equivalent to points) to other members. New members were also awarded stars to spur participation.
- Comments capability: Users were given a place to comment and chat about the video on the application's homepage which also linked to the "Discuss" feed within the video player. About a month into the launch, Parker also began interacting with users in the Group Comments area to generate feedback.
Serena began the Facebook campaign with a soft launch, wherein employees were challenged to spread word of the new application within their personal Facebook networks and add it to their Facebook profiles. (The points system, in fact, was originally developed to inspire this activity.) Within a week, it moved on to a hard launch, which included advertising the video in other Facebook applications, which were chosen based on utilization rates and target users as determined through Involver's research.
Involver's platform allowed Serena to track all aspects of the campaign in real time and quickly make modifications to its messaging, graphics, and other application components. For example, Serena was able to optimize its click-through rates by shortening its call-to-action wording on the on-screen buttons.
To date, the "Go @#$% Yourself!" video on Facebook has received over 1.7 million views and generated a click-through rate of 0.72% (some 14 times higher than the Facebook average). In the first month alone, the video registered more than 1.1 million views and ushered more than 8,000 visitors to the Serena site, doubling the usual daily flow of Web traffic in some instances.
Parker said that he is confident that the campaign reached its intended audience, given the percentage of those visitors who downloaded whitepapers, data sheets, and the company's software. He further believes in Facebook as an effective channel for building brand awareness among college students—the company's future potential customers.
Parker plans to continue augmenting the campaign to facilitate ongoing communication with Super Masher group members. "We don't see this as a one-off tool," he said. "We're building programs to reach out to these folks and let them know about additional features, upcoming releases, and customer success stories, and to solicit feedback."
- Facebook can be a viable B2B marketing channel. Since it already used Facebook as its company intranet, Serena was confident that there were other business professionals networking on the site, and it found a fun way to connect with them. The company took a risk in advertising the video solely on Facebook, given the site's notoriously low response rates, but it found success by creating an interactive application experience that mirrored regular Facebook activity, as opposed to advertising with banners. The bleeping video sparked intrigue, and the succinct calls to action and follow-on content were effective elements for guiding users through to the Serena Web site.
- Make it a team effort. By unleashing its internal resources, Serena was able to get the viral campaign off to a strong start while at the same time cultivating a little friendly competition among its employees.
- For best results, incorporate user interaction without being intrusive. Involver's platform allowed users to self-select whether they wanted to learn more about the video content, compete for points, share comments, or forward the video to friends. And in all cases, Serena was careful to encourage such actions without being pushy or interrupting the user experience. "We request your attention; we don't demand it," said Parker. "That level of marketing etiquette is critical."