Tech firms use social media to advertise

Companies from PC maker Dell to storage equipment maker NetApp are turning to outside blogs, viral videos and websites such as FaceBook, Twitter, FriendFeed and Digg to reach consumers, Reuters reports.

It adds, "these social networking sites harness the age-old power of the word-of-mouth recommendation and can be potent marketing tools. If nothing else, they demand a higher level of consumer engagement than conventional ads."

For tech companies with big marketing budgets, the shift to social media is an implicit acknowledgment that television and print are not necessarily the most effective ways to reach buyers, particularly younger ones, Reuters says.

Also, corporate advertising budgets are being slashed. UBS has forecast global ad spending will fall 3.9% in 2009. Social media could prove be a much cheaper way to reach consumers.

Reuters quotes Debra Aho Williamson, a senior analyst at eMarketer, saying, 'This is 180 degrees from that sort of advertising. Having a conversation with them (consumers) is a very new skill.'

No kidding. As Johnson & Johnson found out. It made a web video ad for its Motrin painkiller and got it wrong. The ad clearly meant to be amusing about the pain caused by carting a baby around in a sling, but lots of mothers weren't amused and they raised a storm on Twitter. The healthcare giant was obliged to apologise.

Stand by for more corporate faux pas as they tangle with this new medium.