Last evening I met with a group of well known companies that are doing interesting things in the social networking space - except that's not what they call it. Intel for instance prefers to think in terms of participative marketing. According to Martha Ford, marketing alliance manager: "Social networking as an expression doesn't mean much to the reseller channel we want to reach but they can relate to story telling and participation in forums and the like."
As proof, Intel has created OpenPort, a new initiative that is built on Jive Software technology. It takes the blog metaphor and uses it to kickstart discussions among resellers on issues that are important to them. It is early days but they are already seeing discussions emerge around topics like virtualization and 'green' computing.
Ms Ford was adamant that Intel does not see OpenPort as a vehicle for ramming marketing messages down resellers' throats: "We've had forums for years so in one sense this is nothing new but I think what's different is we're actively facilitating those discussions and get them out in the open." I asked Ms Ford about the importance of adopting consumer tactics in the creation of this style of network: "It's the best way we've found of making community work while at the same time giving a look and feel with which resellers are comfortable. That's really important because while we want to provide the framework, they should have an experience that helps lend the notion of ownership."
Talking among others, it is clear we are in the 'early adopter' stage of community creation with much experimentation, trial and errors. What is interesting is that brands are willing to pass over control to users in ways that would have been unthinkable in the past. The extent to which that gets turned into sales dollars remains ot be seen.