Posted September 30, 2008 8:28 pm by with 58 comments

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It’s uncommon to see sales increase by double digits. HP had a new laptop called  Dragon. Sales were flat after trying traditional marketing. So they decided to try another way – engaging bloggers. A quick way to do that is to send bloggers an ultralight $5,000 laptop to give away to one of their readers.

Nine months after launch, the 15 pound laptop with a 20.1-inch screen and 500-gigabyte hard drive wasn’t selling that well. HP hired social media marketing firm Buzz Corps Inc. and they brainstormed with bloggers and HP to come up with the campaign.

Scott Ballantyne, vice president and general manager of the personal systems group at HP, said:

“The technology keeps changing and people keep chasing the next social technology. The key is to remember that social media is about people talking and interacting with people. Technology can help with distribution. But people need to remain at the center.”

Here’s what they did. They called it 31 Days of the Dragon. They contacted 31 tech bloggers with influence (based on number of links, Google ranking, and recommendations from other bloggers) to give away 31 laptops in 31 days. So essentially a month of contests. Each blogger made up their own rules about the contest but each agreed to promote the contests of everyone else in the group.

The result was that the first five pages of Google results for searches on HP and HP Dragon were blog posts about the contest. According to HP they had over 380,000 links to the 31 sites discussing the contest. Bloggers got over 25,000 contest entries and an average 150% increase in traffic. Here’s the kicker though – almost 85% increase in sales of a computer that was released nine months ago!

I spoke to Chris Aarons at Buzz Corps who told me how HP was not doing any social media prior to engaging them. Today they showcase their employees blogs and have HP blogs, videos, and podcasts. He explained how PR firms typically get the inital push on a product. Social media campaigns keep the buzz going or in the case of HP – they resurrect it.

I was impressed with the collaborative approach that Aarons described – it’s quite high touch. Normally people wonder how to get ROI from blogs – this shows it can be done.