Sun’s own network breeds loyalty from tech-minded students

Online playground helps build brand advocacy on the Web—and off. Video

Online playground helps build brand advocacy on the Web—and off

How do you turn hundreds of thousands of young people into advocates for your brand? Meet them on their own turf.

Better yet, build some turf—i.e., a proprietary social network—where they can meet and discuss a common interest: your products.

Sun Microsystems did just that. Not only does its Open Source University Meetup (OSUM) now boast 140,000 members, but it also helps students develop their tech skills. That, in turn, has made them Sun boosters.

“What happens in a community is people talk to each other and recommend the product to each other,” says Gary Serda, Sun’s global manager of academic programs and communities. “It’s the ultimate marketing value: Once you have adoption and preference, recommendation is really the crown jewel in the cycle.”

Catering to students is only natural for Sun, which was founded in the 1980s by four college students. Its first product was a technical workstation used primarily by engineering and technical students.

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