Dianne Kibbey shares how she built out a strategy for Avnet’s element14 brand to connect with engineers on social media

When you're looking at a hard-to-reach audience, you really have to think about what they want. Dianne Kibbey
Back in 2007, Dianne Kibbey — Global Head of Community and Social Media for Avnet's element14 brand — and her team first started to strategize more around social media, consolidate their channels, and build out their community for engineers. Right away she knew they would be a tough audience.

In the first few years of social media, Dianne shares that they didn't gain a lot of followers. “We were putting out a lot of corporate content or discounts from brand products,” she explains. “Those efforts gained us some followers, but those were loyal customers who didn't engage much with the content.”

Dianne and her team decided to change up their strategy and engage directly in the kind of content engineers would find valuable.

“We talked to a lot of engineers and tried different content to see when they would and wouldn't engage,” says Dianne. “We wanted to connect directly with them and see what they wanted.”

They followed an internal focus group of engineers and found out that, rather than reading tech content, they wanted to see how a product is used or see projects that engineers have built. For social media, Dianne and her team started honing in on that content and bringing their element14 community members into the process.

“Once we started looking at our member projects and stuff that they've done — that was a big game changer for us,” says Dianne. “When you're looking at a hard-to-reach audience, you really have to think about what they want.”

Dianne and her team started experimenting with different ways they could get their community members involved in their social strategy.

Find things that your audience is creating that you can share. Dianne Kibbey
Dianne says they looked at ways members were engaging in the community itself to draw inspiration for social. For example, she and her team noticed that members would frequently include a video for projects that use a product in their design.

“When someone presents a product in the community, they include coding examples and videos,” explains Dianne. “So when we transfer that over to social, we put a comment explaining what the device does and link to an excerpt of the video that will direct them back to the community content.”

Dianne says that they also rely on road test reviews from community members when they have new products coming out. “Once they actually do the reviews, we don't just say, ‘see the review here,'” says Dianne. “We'll actually pick out something that the member said in the review and use it to get our audience interested.”

She says when they started using community content on their social media channels, that's when they really started seeing a positive change.

“We went from having three likes on something to 457 likes,” says Dianne. “Because it's about them and their peers.”

According to Dianne, these learnings would apply to anyone dealing with a hard-to-reach community — and it's made all the difference for them.

For the first few years since implementing these changes, their audience grew by 100 percent every year (Dianne says that number is now closer to 20 percent a year). And they are continuing to see improvements in engagement, all through focusing in on the sharing of valuable content in their industry.

Outside of the member projects and community content, Dianne and her team revamped their product marketing content.

She explains when a new product first comes to market, it often takes community members a while to start talking about it and sharing it. So, she and her team developed a template for 360 videos that shows off the product's features and describes its functionality.

“We'll share these videos on social and in the community so that the engineers can see all the cool features of the product,” says Dianne. “That was an experiment that just took off and is now standard practice.”

Similarly, when Dianne and her team discovered that traditional product offers promoting discounts didn't do very well, they developed a “product carousel” where they include all of their new products and link back to their website.

Dianne and her team also leveraged eBooks they built for the community to provide their audience with valuable information.

We track our competitors, other people in our industry, and people we admire to get inspiration for new content and see how their campaigns are doing. Dianne Kibbey
They knew that white papers didn't work for the community, so they started creating eBooks from ideas and topics in their community. Dianne shares that the key to those being successful was making sure to include substantial information — not just linking to different parts of the community.

Now, Dianne and her team include a snippet of information or a fact from their eBooks any time they advertise this content over social.

“If we create a tech spotlight on a tech topic and just create a call to action to read the content, the posts don't do very well,” explains Dianne. “But if we take a piece of information or a quick tip — something an engineer can learn — out of the eBook or the tech spotlight and include that information in the social post, it does a lot better. We're giving them an example of a takeaway they will get by clicking on the content.”

Dianne says having the element14 community has been a big advantage for them.

“We kind of have an internal focus group that we could ask very specific questions to decide which direction we should take,” says Dianne. “But now our biggest challenge is keeping the ideas coming.”

She says even though certain ideas are working well right now, that doesn't mean they'll continue to connect with the audience in six months or a year. “So, you always have to be thinking about new and interesting ways to engage them,” says Dianne.

But for now, Dianne and her team are proud of the value they're able to bring engineers through their community and social channels.

“We have over 600,000 engineers across the globe who turn to our community,” says Dianne. “And people turn to our social channels to find out what‘s happening with our community.”

She and her team are planning to continue developing more content that can touch on topics their audiences are interested in while representing everything that they do at element14. She says they are planning to do spotlights on startups that they're working with to show how they are helping solve problems and develop more case studies on community members.

Dianne says the key to engaging with a hard-to-reach audience on social is developing a close connection with the people you talk to directly.

“Find things that they're creating that you can share,” says Dianne. “And include things that people can use that their peers have created.”

She also shares how they use a tool called TrackMaven to track their brand and others on social. “We track our competitors, other people in our industry, and people we admire to get inspiration for new content and see how their campaigns are doing,” explains Dianne. “But you don't even need that specific tool, it just helps to follow people you admire.”

According to Dianne, the most important thing is learning who your customer is. “Engineers are always learning,” she says. “So a lot of our content is geared towards learning and always providing value for our audience.”

Dianne Kibbey has been a member of SocialMedia.org since 2011. You can follow her on LinkedIn and Twitter.