Microsoft launches Twitter haiku contest for IT pros

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Microsoft launched an online haiku contest this month targeting IT professionals. To win a home theater system and an Xbox 360 Elite console, IT pros can submit their best haikus about the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system via Twitter or the campaign's microsite, R2Haiku.com.

The effort, developed by digital agency Fuel Industries, promotes R2, which launched in September. Its goal is both customer acquisition and retention, and also to get users of older operating systems to update to a newer version, said William Lewallen, senior product manager at Microsoft.

Users can follow the initiative at www.Twitter.com/r2haiku or do a Twitter search for #r2haiku.

Sudhir Diddee, senior marketing manager and IT pro audience lead at Microsoft, said using Twitter gives the company the most relevant feedback from its IT audience.

“These are complex products, and these guys can pull out the key features in 140 characters and in a fun way,” he explained. “This drives deep engagement without being very time consuming.”

He added that IT pros are a tight-knit online community that often makes purchasing decisions based on word-of-mouth marketing.

Sean MacPhedran, director of creative strategy at Fuel Industries, said that IT professionals tend to be influential on Twitter.

“Every haiku that gets Tweeted out by an IT pro gets 126 impressions — based on the average number of Twitter followers,” he explained. “We know that birds of a feather stick together, so we can assume we're getting a chunk of the peer set that these pros are having professional conversations with online.”

The Twitter feed launched November 16. To date, 455 haikus have been submitted, Lewallen said.

“Twitter isn't a niche platform anymore,” he said. “It's in line with where these pros are already spending time online, as opposed to creating something new.”

MacPhedran added: “When converting consumers to engage with a campaign, engaging on Twitter isn't as difficult as sending an e-mail. People don't want to spam 126 friends with an e-mail, but they are willing to have that conversation online in a social media setting.”

Diddee said the goal of the campaign's microsite is to allow those not active on Twitter to participate in the contest. To submit entries there, users must enter a Windows Live ID and a valid e-mail address.

However, Lewallen said the main goal of the initiative is not to build an e-mail database, but to encourage a back-and-forth communication among the IT community.

“Many IT pros are either using a trial version or an older version of the system,” he said. “We're trying to use word of mouth to promote the new features.”

Microsoft is promoting the contest through a widget, which launched November 24, on third-party sites and by promoting it to technology and IP bloggers. Diddee said that after Thanksgiving, Microsoft will promote it via a banner ad push on targeted sites.

Consumers can enter the contest through January 15, 2010, when Microsoft will select nine semifinalists. Users can vote for their favorite until January 29, when the winner will be announced.

Microsoft has worked with Fuel Industries for two years. Other initiatives have included PC adventure games Server Quest and Server Quest II, which launched in early 2008 and 2009, respectively.

“In general, we're making social media and integrated part of all of our campaign planning,” MacPhedran said. “We've just seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of what we can do with it.”

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