How AutoCAD Retooled Its Marketing With Facebook

social media case studiesChris Hession has been a product and marketing manager for nearly 15 years. But recently, his job completely changed.

“Just in the last year and a half, social media has become not just a component of our product marketing plan, but really the core component,” said Hession, currently senior manager of Autodesk’s AutoCAD product marketing.

“Pretty much for everything we do, we’re looking at, ‘How can we make this work for social?’”

Millions of people worldwide use AutoCAD software to design everything from sunglasses to skyscrapers. If there’s any question that a B2B software company can market effectively with Facebook, look no further than the AutoCAD team.

tokyo

The firm Nikken Sekkei used AutoCAD to design the Tokyo Sky Tree.

The AutoCAD Facebook page has become a new media channel of sorts, with largely live and on-demand video keeping fans very actively engaged.

Every day the AutoCAD group connects directly with its audience on Facebook, bringing them high-value educational video, tech tips, fun quizzes and reality TV–style segments. At the start of 2011, the company had 120,000 fans. Now it has reached 652,000.

But beyond those “Likes,” the company garners an impressive level of engagement. On average, fans spend more than 20 minutes watching AutoCAD “Facecasts.”

“In Internet time, that’s an eternity,” Hession said.

Here’s how the AutoCAD team attracts and keeps fans with interactive, two-way content.

Organization

Social Media Handles and Stats:

Highlights:

  • The average viewer spends more than 20 minutes watching AutoCAD Facecasts.
  • The company brought 250 sessions from its Autodesk University—about one-third of all presentations—straight from the event to its Facebook fans.
  • About 850 people watched a live product announcement on Facebook with another 2,200 catching the recording, just on the first day.
  • The first episode of “Technology Makeover” drew 1,944 Likes, 94 comments and 326 shares.

Facebook: The Perfect Medium

For those who design physical structures and objects, AutoCAD is an undisputed leader worldwide. Chances are something you touched today—from your car to the road you drove on—was designed using their software.

Though not every B2B organization is a fit for Facebook, two traits of the software’s target audience make Facebook just the right marketing medium for AutoCAD.

  1. 18- to 24-year-olds, in design school or in their first jobs, are overwhelmingly on Facebook.
  2. Facebook provides a place to connect directly with this young audience across the globe. AutoCAD is used by designers in hundreds of countries.

Two years ago, the AutoCAD team created a fan page and started populating it with informative and entertaining content designed to encourage two-way interaction.

autocad sunglass quiz

Fans answered a recent tech quiz for the chance to win sunglasses.

A Sense of Family With Facecasts

The company started what they call Facecasts, live presentations on Facebook by AutoCAD product specialists on different aspects of the software. Using the Livestream plugin, product specialists spend about 15 minutes on a different topic each time and take questions afterward.

Unlike YouTube posting, Facecasts enable valuable back-and-forth with the audience.

“The nice thing about Livestream is you can actually have a discussion,” Hession said. “For our Facebook fans, we’ve found it to be something that helps them feel part of the family.”

autocad facecast

Facecasts, streamed live with Livestream, draw big attendance.

Since last spring, the AutoCAD team has run 15-20 Facecasts, drawing around 25,000 viewers so far to the live and then recorded sessions. In their book, that’s hugely successful.

Autodesk University—250 Sessions on Facebook

Every year, about 8,000 designers from around the world descend on Las Vegas for the annual user group conference, called Autodesk University. But not all of the company’s global audience can make it to Vegas.

This year, the company brought 250 sessions—about one-third of all presentations—straight from the event to its Facebook fans. Autodesk used a custom-built app to allow customers to access the sessions on its fan page, while eight sessions were broadcast live.

“Our goal was to bring the energy, excitement and inspirational aspects of Autodesk University to our Facebook friends,” Hession said.

Autodesk also set up a broadcast booth in the middle of the show floor with a backdrop that made guests feel as if they were stepping into Facebook. Over the three days, broadcasts featured customer stories and insight from Autodesk executives.

autocad facebook booth

The broadcast booth at Autodesk University brought video via Facebook to the company's thousands of fans unable to attend the live event.

A Big Step: First Software Launch on Facebook

With Facebook firmly planted as a major marketing staple, the AutoCAD team took a big step this past summer. The group officially launched its new AutoCAD for Mac software right on its Facebook page.

But ahead of the launch, the company spent half a year building the fan base through engaging broadcasts and other content, and with very targeted Facebook advertising. By launch time, the AutoCAD group had added a few hundred thousand new fans, many from developing markets like the Philippines and India.

“Some of the folks in those countries, they’re starved for some good AutoCAD tutorials, training and access to folks on the AutoCAD team,” Hession said. “Facebook marketing gives us a direct connection with these folks.”

Also prior to the launch, the AutoCAD team engaged fans to help crowdsource details of the launch, asking them to co-design the launch announcement and to help decide the when, who and how of the event.

autocad facebook

Fans voted on the AutoCAD person they wanted to host the Mac launch.

autocad profile image

An event-specific AutoCAD profile image brought awareness of the launch.

On August 16, the actual announcement was broadcast live on Facebook with a Q and A session following. About 850 people attended the live announcement with another 2,200 catching the recording, just on the first day.

Hession

Hession, far right, and the production team direct the Mac launch.

The format also allowed customers (for the first time in a launch event) to interact directly with the launch team through Facebook comments. In the past, Autodesk launches were via traditional webinar.

Beyond fan engagement, the software gained widespread exposure from 76 blog posts, with nearly all of those bloggers watching the Livestream.

“We were thrilled at the reaction to this social launch,” Hession said. “We can do this fairly inexpensively. We didn’t have a big budget, so it worked out great.”

autocad superman

Fun questions caught fans' attention and brought in 235 comments.

Technology Makeover—Office Edition

Facebook continues inspiring creative video content. In December, Autodesk and Lenovo aired the first “Technology Makeover,” a series of five short episodes where the firm Alan Mascord Design Associates received a full tech makeover.

The segments took an HGTV-style approach with a show host, “prize van” and surprise visit to the design firm.

Each episode runs 2 to 5 minutes, and is also available on the AutoCAD YouTube page. Facebook fans loved the series, with the first episode drawing 1,944 likes, 94 comments and 326 shares.

autocad tech makeover

The first episode of the Technology Makeovers was a success.

With the success of the first makeover series, Autodesk plans to roll out a Facebook contest to find the next candidate, using a voting app from Votigo.

Engaging Posts, Every Day

Facebook broadcast segments are the anchor content for the software’s fans, but the AutoCAD team peppers in regular text-based tips, quizzes and polls that keep customers involved. The key: be interesting, relevant and regular with content.

autocad customer story

Well-crafted customer stories educate and entertain.

While the AutoCAD team does count engagement levels in the form of Likes, comments, shares, views and questions, Hession and the company mainly see their efforts as critical brand-building that’s tough to truly measure. For them, talking directly to customers is gold.

“For me, it’s ‘How can we have a direct communication with our customers?’” Hession said.

“Our little tagline internally is, ‘personal communication on a volume scale.’ People are seeing their updates from AutoCAD between updates from Aunt Jenny and their best friend. It brings a sense of the personal to your communications and marketing.”

How to Be Your Own Facebook Broadcast Channel

  1. Ditch the script—Software product managers have become the “talent” for Livestream broadcasts. Keep it real by letting experts talk about what they know, without a script.
  2. Keep video times relatively short—AutoCAD video presentations are no more than 20-25 minutes, and then experts answer fan questions.
  3. Encourage questions repeatedly—Fans might be shy, especially those with foreign native languages. Push for questions, encouraging your fan base.
  4. Have fun—You may be B2B, but there’s no reason to be stodgy. Fun content gets a reaction.

What do you think? How has Facebook “broadcasting” affected your marketing? Do you plan to do more in 2012? Leave your questions and comments in the box below.

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About the Author, Casey Hibbard

Casey Hibbard is Social Media Examiner's case study writer. She is also president of Compelling Cases Inc. and author of Stories That Sell: Turn Satisfied Customers into Your Most Powerful Sales & Marketing Asset. Other posts by »




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  • http://www.IfSimply.com/ Keith Griffis

    This is a great example of thinking outside the corporate box Casey. I actually was an early autocad user in highschool (Autocad 12 I think) and continued throughout college before graduating and moving away from it. I remember it wa always an isolating feeling working on a design alone. This is a great way to engage their target demographic.

    There is another hidden agenda you may not see here as well. Auto desk has lost some steam as low cost competition and 3D modeling programs have increased competition. Their market aged and the tools the younger generation was using changed as well.

    Now with facebook, they are seeding the future decision makers. The truth is that people use what they were trained on when they were starting out throughout their career. By getting the younger demographic using their tool, they learn the features required to stay competitive and can drive future decision makers to become brand advocates. Genius! Great work Autodesk. Great summary Casey.

    Casey – how do you recommend people how video, YouTube or Facebook directly?

    Thanks,
    Keith
    http://www.SimpleMediaMarketing.com

  • bleedingblu

    Wow! I didn’t know AutoCAD was so active on Facebook. Ever wonder how many fake accounts there are in Facebook? I found this infographic interesting http://goo.gl/AQTvO

  • Nicole

    I agree, this is a terrific BtoB case study … but do you know if/how they measure ROI out of these efforts?  Is there any connection that they’ve found between number of Fans and software sales?  I would imagine they are, on some level – because this is a lot of effort and time to put into these social channels … so I’m curious to know what they look at/ how they think about ROI?

  • http://www.hyperarts.com/blog/ Tim Ware

    Great article. My company HyperArts designed and developed this and many other Facebook tabs for Autodesk and their many products such as AutoCAD, Inventor, 123D and Publisher, so it’s very nice to get some acknowledgement of our work — although not specifically called out :-) . Autodesk is a great company to have as a client, as one might imagine.

  • caseyhibbard

    Hi Keith,

    Thanks for your comments! They are certainly smart to be targeting the young demographic this way. And the fact that FB is global makes it a very efficient way to reach so many at once. I’m not sure I understand your question or that I’m the best person to answer it. Can you explain more?

  • caseyhibbard

    Nicole,

    Chris really stressed that it’s a branding effort, and they are trusting that the investment does/will pay off in sales. They aren’t posting links directly to product offers, so it’s tough for them to track when a sale comes related to FB marketing. But the popularity of the page has led the company to put more money toward social media.

  • caseyhibbard

    Great work Tim!

  • http://www.hyperarts.com/blog/ Tim Ware

    Yes, I would add that the correlation between social and sales is still evolving, for all businesses. I know that my company, HyperArts, has seen an increase in business over the time our blog and our fan page have become popular. But it’s difficult to assign specific cause-and-effect numbers.

    I think for most businesses, it’s a branding exercise with an eye toward increasing sales over time.

    The real trick is to keep users on your fan page, rather than have them interact with your page via their news feed. AutoCAD did a great job of creating value on their tab with videos, including the Facecasts, and other valuable content for users of their software.

  • http://lauriemeisel.com/ Laurie Meisel

    Great example of a B2B utilizing social media to reach and ENGAGE with their customers! Kudos to Autodesk for representing the A/E/C community!

  • http://NaomiTrower.com Naomi Trower

    As an avid AutoCAD user as an engineer in the past, it’s great to see such a technical company getting social! It is evidence that even us techy peeps can be relational. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/mpaterson1 Melissa Paterson

    i really would be lost if it was not for all the great info avil here thanks heaps xoxo

  • Pingback: How AutoCAD Retooled Its Marketing With Facebook | Social Media, Internet and Affiliate Marketing

  • Bonnie Rauwerdink

    That was a cool article. I sent it to the Mechanical Design students I am working with.

  • Mmeisberger

    Loved the article. Great examples of how social media IS powerful for big business.

  • http://twitter.com/isalancha Isabel Lancha

    Good article!!

  • Carmen Sognonvi

    Such a cool case study, Casey! Thanks for sharing this one with us.

    I love the idea of using a Facebook page to create one’s own “broadcast” network. AutoCAD’s mix of live streams, tutorial videos, and reality-show-style content is really smart and innovative.

    I’m thinking about how we could adapt this strategy in our own business – a martial arts school. We’re already doing a lot of video, so it would be a natural extension.

    Our audience is probably too small to make live-streaming worthwhile, but I love the idea of drawing inspiration from formats that work well on TV (e.g. makeover shows) and adapting them for web video.

    You’ve given me lots of food for thought. :)

  • http://www.kooldesignmaker.com custom logo design

    very informative and comprehensive post you have shared with us, it is good news that autocad retooled its marketing with facebook and i think its importance will increase after this improvement.

  • Pingback: How AutoCAD Retooled Its Marketing With Facebook | Social Media … | Marketing for Small Business

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=526924098 Karen Brewer

     Awesome article and it’s great to see my team’s work recognized!  Thank you!

  • caseyhibbard

    Hey Karen, Great work!

  • caseyhibbard

    Hey Carmen,

    I’m not sure what you already do, but short features on individual students would be interesting – who they are and what they get out of the lessons.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chrishession Chris Hession

    Thanks for the great write-up, Casey!
     
    Like marketers at pretty much every company, at Autodesk we place a huge emphasis on directly engaging with our customers around the world. Facebook and Twitter provide an amazing platform for that engagement. Technology providers like Livestream and Votigo help us take that engagement even further. We’ve learned a great deal over the last year, and we’re learning more every day. If anyone wants to talk in more detail, feel free to ping me through Twitter (@CPHession) or email (first.last@autodeskDOTcom)

    One last note: Social Media Examiner is an amazing resource. We learned a ton during the Facebook Success Summit last fall. Can’t wait for the next one!

    -Chris

  • http://www.nichesense.com/ Anshul

    Wow, some great examples here. I grew up using Autodesk products (Autocad, 3DS Max etc) and never imagined them to be using social media the way they are, pleasantly surprised!

  • Pingback: How AutoCAD Retooled Its Marketing With Facebook | Lobster Digital Marketing

  • Guruvardhan

    Amazing piece of insight Casey… It is a real booster for many
    companies which want to take that hesitant step into social media… Having following this space for some time.. it really is cool to see it as a whole… :)

  • http://www.i95dev.com/ecommerce-magento Henry Louis

    Oh! It is great. It shows the greatness and effect of Facebook in Marketing. Nice post.

  • Pingback: How Social Media became a central tenet of a software company’s business strategy. AutoCad a social media leader? « Customer Touchpoint Marketing

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=593833378 Noa Eshed

    How come they have so many fans and hold contests on their wall against Facebook’s terms (the sunglasses puzzle example)? Am I missing something here?
    Thanks for a great post

  • meercat007

    Great article, with lots of ideas for using Facebook creatively. Just one question… isn’t it against Facebook’s promotional guidelines to do any kind of contest at Facebook directly? I am referring to the first example given in the article, the technology quiz where fans could win sunglasses if they answered the question correctly.

    As page owner, I’d be concerned to be shut down by Facebook due to contest like activities on my Wall.

  • caseyhibbard

    Hi Chris,

    Thank you too! It was educational and inspiring to capture your story. Keep up the great work!

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  • Ralph Grabowski

    One ROI measurement is that only 2,200 bothered watching the widely advertised DE8.16N announcement (which was an update to AutoCAD for Mac, not a major new product) — despite the page having over 652,000 fans.







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