Digi-Key’s Guide to Social Media Success

Electronics components distributor {complink 12799|Digi-Key Corp.} generates about 98 percent of revenue through its Website. So it makes sense that the company buys in to a pretty extensive social media and search engine marketing strategy. Tony Harris, the company's chief marketing officer, declined to disclose the company's marketing budget, but analyzing the extent of the campaigns suggests the majority goes online.

More business-to-business (B2B) enterprises began using social media earlier this year as part of their marketing strategies. Some have found that social sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube help them reach customers on a more personal level. Research firm eMarketer cites a Web survey, conducted in May from iTracks, which finds 89 percent of US B2B companies use social media marketing.

As for Digi-Key, the company produces a variety of YouTube videos to explain products, services, and procedures — in fact, about 935. Although a little out of the box, the video series, dubbed “Another Geek Moment,” demonstrates how engineers can build components into products. And since buyers have little time to absorb information, another feature, Procure Minute, provides insight into procurement. A continuing stream of new tutorials, while short and informative, goes live weekly.

Digi-Key not only produces videos and uploads them to its YouTube channel, but participates in the video site's advertising program called Promoted Videos, which allows companies and individuals to promote videos on the YouTube site. The videos are targeted and built on the Google AdWords auction system. Google account holders set the daily maximum bid price for each campaign. They appear above or alongside the YouTube search query results.

Google's YouTube provides other ad formats, such as TrueView video ads, a family of ad formats. They give viewers choice on whether or not to watch the ad, which can appear as a lower third in the video clip. Advertisers are only charged when a viewer chooses to watch more than 30 seconds of the ad, not just when an impression or ad gets served in the video.

Along with Digi-Key, Mouser Electronics has a YouTube channel with about 33 videos that highlights products.

Harris wouldn't go into details on how Digi-Key monitors the backend metrics, such as “likes” and click rates — the number of times the videos have been viewed — but said the company's marketers don't use Google Analytics. “It's like asking Willy Wonka how he makes the chocolate,” he said. “Or what makes the chocolate stream run.”

Digi-Key also uses search engine marketing (SEM), optimizing organic search query results on,, or, as well as paid search marketing — those text ads that serve up in search query results either on the right rail or above the organic query listings. Typically these ads will identify themselves with a headline, description, and image. In the case of Digi-Key, the ads show up at the top of the search page with six Sitelinks below the company name directing searchers to specific pages on the company's Website. Think of these pages, called “landing pages,” as mini campaigns or ads.

Aside from YouTube, Harris said Digi-Key runs Twitter contests @digikey, and LinkedIn and Facebook promotions. Companies such as @CUIInc become sponsors.

It doesn't stop there. Digi-Key also has a mobile strategy, which Harris said supports high download rates from iTunes. The company no longer prints a paper catalogue, but it does have an iPad and an iPhone application supported by ads.

38 comments on “Digi-Key’s Guide to Social Media Success

  1. Barbara Jorgensen
    December 22, 2011

    @Laurie–I've known Digi-Key for ages, but never got as in-depth a look as you share here. Nice work!

    December 23, 2011

    Up until now I have considered social websites as frivolous wastes of time but I am learning that I am a dinosaur in this respect.  Companies must embrace this technology and use it to their best advantage.  Designers seem a lot younger these days (or am I just getting older) and will likely be much more accessible via social websites.

  3. t.alex
    December 23, 2011

    I am quite surprised to know 98 percent are via online. Nice sharing.

  4. AnalyzeThis
    December 23, 2011

    @t.alex, I am too… slightly… but then again, with that percentage of sales, is it any wonder that the “traditional” catalog business is becoming extinct? I for one greatly prefer online and feel little nostalgia for the “old days,” in this case.

  5. Anand
    December 23, 2011

    As for Digi-Key, the company produces a variety of YouTube videos to explain products, services, and procedures — in fact, about 935.

    @Laurie, thanks for the post. Its good initiative by Digi-key to produce Youtube videos to explain products and services. Infact element14 has also started similar initiative by launching elemen14 TV. Videos really help the customer's to understand the things better be it technical or procedural.

  6. Laurie Sullivan
    December 23, 2011

    I'm not surprised at the percent of online sales, but I am surprised at the sophistication of the company's online marketing strategy. Yes, the traditional catalog business will become extinct. As a consumer, I've become more comfortable making online purchases and, in most cases, prefer it. I nearly made it through the entire pre-holiday buying season without setting foot in a brick-and-mortar store, but Wednesday night I had to go into Best Buy for something after checking stock availability online. I found the item online through one simple search query, but it took 20 minutes of searching on my own and a salesperson's help to locate the item on the shelf. I got so frustrated in the store I nearly walked out. It seems to me Digi-Key's educational videos and the features on the website would help engineers find exactly what they need to get the job done. 

  7. Anand
    December 23, 2011

    Companies must embrace this technology and use it to their best advantage.

    @FLYINGSCOT, true companies must embrace new technologies to stay in the game. Companies should utilize all the medium possible to reach to the customer. Video is one such powerful medium which really helps the customer to understand the things in simple manner.

  8. Anand
    December 23, 2011

    As a consumer, I've become more comfortable making online purchases and, in most cases, prefer it.

    @Laurie, but sometimes making online purchases is also frustrating experience. For example Best Buy has alerted some customers that it will not be able to fill their online orders, just days before Christmas. Overwhelming demand for some products from has led to a problem redeeming online orders made in November and December.

  9. Laurie Sullivan
    December 23, 2011

    Best Buy isn't the first company to not have the the technology that alerts them of out-of-stock inventory after taking too many online orders, and they won't be the last until someone comes up with a platform that ties actual inventory into online ordering systems in real time. Do distributors like Digi-Key have this type of platform? I'm not sure. The clothing store had the same problem after Thanksgiving. They offered a sweater for $25. Too many consumers placed an order for the item, and Talbots couldn't fill them all. The companies that can't bridge the gap will lose in the long run because customers will find another company that can. 

  10. HayneAtMouser
    December 23, 2011

    I cannot answer for the competition, but as a rule, Mouser's available website inventory is within a couple of seconds to the warehouse shelf. World-wide.

  11. Houngbo_Hospice
    December 24, 2011

    “Companies should utilize all the medium possible to reach to the customer.”

    As more and more people use social media today, companies are developing various social business strategies in order to be more closer to their customers. But there is no universal strategy that works for everybody. Each company should focus more on media that its customers use most.

  12. Houngbo_Hospice
    December 24, 2011


    “sometimes making online purchases is also frustrating experience.”

    I agree, but that is how the law of demand and supply works. The best think to do in the future is to place your order earlier. We should also use common sense when we purchase online. Not always what companies write on their website is true. I never believe in “overnight delivery” .

  13. _hm
    December 24, 2011

    Alongwith link to datasheet, I love 3D image of parts on Digikey. It really helps me selecting parts quickly.


    I also suggest Digikey to add PDF or STEP 3D model for all parts. This will be very useful to designer.


  14. Eldredge
    December 24, 2011

    There is no doubt that social media marketing has become an important and popular method, and integrates well with online ordering of products. I would think there would come a point when it would also become annoying to the consumer base. Do consumers set up special identities for marketing?

  15. Himanshugupta
    December 25, 2011

    I would think there would come a point when it would also become annoying to the consumer base

    I think that social media is still in its infancy. When i search for something then i always find something useful in the sidebar search results. So, right now its not annoying but this might change when companies start to push for their product aggressively. I also think that social media marketing has a global audience while any other medium has either local or national reach. These are exciting times for web trend analytics.

  16. Jay_Bond
    December 25, 2011

    Social media use is definitely picking up among companies in all fields. This seems to be the preferred route for consumers. Not only are companies saving trees by not printing catalogs that usually get tossed or rarely used, companies can post informative videos that make things easier for buyers.

  17. Nemos
    December 25, 2011

    The first part of your blog post is very interesting and well presented, but the second part has to do with the advertisements, and the methods that most of the companies use to promote themselves. Especially, the TrueView video ads, is the most annoying thing that exists now. Advertisement is a nice and efficient marketing tool but in nowadays we have seen a lot of “attacking methods” using advertisement. And I have the feeling that method like Trueview video ads is an attacking method even if the user has the ability to close the adv window.

  18. Taimoor Zubar
    December 26, 2011

    I think social media is an effective tool when it comes to interacting with consumers. However, I am not sure about it's usefulness in the corporate environment with B2B customers. Business users tend to prefer more personalized means of communication.

  19. Damilare
    December 26, 2011

    I think it will still be pretty difficult to create a platform that matches online ordering with available stock because it is literarily possible for a hundred consumers to place an order for the same item in the same fraction of a second that can exhaust the existing stock except it is possible to design a software that would automatically randomly pick out a number of orders from many simultaneous orders and reject the other because of lack of stock…

  20. Houngbo_Hospice
    December 26, 2011


    “Social media use is definitely picking up among companies in all fields.”

    That is true, but not all the companies that have a social interface could say that social media is profitable to their business. Some are just following the current trends without any good strategy. 

  21. Houngbo_Hospice
    December 26, 2011


     I am not sure about it's usefulness in the corporate environment with B2B customers.  “

    You have raised an important issue about social media usefulness in every business context. The business landscape is not unique and there is the need for each company to integrate a social component to its business environment taking into account its customers needs and “features”. Your B2B customers will certainly not like to use and engage with your “social tools” if they don't fit into their business model. 

  22. Jay_Bond
    December 26, 2011


    You are correct about some companies just following the trend with no direction. You can typically tell the companies that are putting more time and effort into promoting their company and their products.

  23. bolaji ojo
    December 26, 2011

    TaimoorZ, Interestingly, one of the differentiating factors about social media is its personal nature as opposed to the wide coverage of general advertising. Social media offers companies opportunity to identify and gather directly personal information from the target individually. This is almost impossible in general advertising.

    Plus, social media is not only about trying to convince someone to buy a particular product; it's about building a long-term relationship with that individual. That's something companies desire heavily nowadays.

  24. Taimoor Zubar
    December 26, 2011

    @Bolaji: I agree that social media is all about interacting with other people, but are the current social media technologies good enough to be used within the corporate environment? Is it okay for electronic vendors to have their “Pages” on Facebook and have Procurement Managers “like” them? How do you ensure personal and professional segregation in this case?

  25. Daniel
    December 26, 2011

    It's very interesting to know that Digi-key is earning its major share (98%) through online marketing. It's very interesting and other companies can follow the similar way of trading through online portals. Such online tradings can avoid many of the trade off of offline trading and its better and fast when compare with the later.

  26. bolaji ojo
    December 26, 2011

    TaimoorZ, Social media crosses personal and professional lines. It's difficult as a result to clearly separate them for business employees (I believe companies must set guidelines for this, though). In the example you gave, companies set their “pages” on Facebook, etc., because that's the only option they have and it's the meeting place for the exchange of enterprise and personal information.

    My preference is for individuals to have two distinct online identities. One for yourself as a person and the other professional. That's why I like LinkedIn; it's all professional for me. My Facebook account is personal and for Twitter, I have both a personal and a professional identity.

    We meet a lot of people that we want to interact with professionally but not necessarily in a personal setting. Many companies don't offer employees guidelines on how to separate the two. I believe they need to and if they don't, then the employee has a personal obligation to not let business contacts flow over into personal. I think, it may even be more beneficial to a company if it lets employees set up identities devoted to business contacts. This would let business contacts know also that you are not going to drag their private lives into business activities and make it easier for them to exchange professional information.

  27. Taimoor Zubar
    December 26, 2011

    Even I tend to prefer LinkedIn because of it's more professional design and options. It's pretty hard to keep your personal and professional life apart on Facebook unless you maintain separate profiles. That itself can be a hassle.

  28. Ariella
    December 26, 2011

    @TaimoorZ Following the intoduction of Google+, which does let you share with specific circles you set up, which can be defined as personal or business friends and even levels in between, FB has introduced multiple categories for your friends that include acquaintances, etc., allowing one to try to limit what particular groups see. Nevertheless, my rule of thumb would always be not to post anything on FB that you wouldn't want to have made completely public because once it's out there, it can spread, just like secrets told to one person who then shares with another, and so on.

  29. JADEN
    December 26, 2011

    Social media is now the trend and a vehicle to marketing, it has become a marketing opportunity that transcends the traditional middleman and connects companies directly with customers.  nearly every business globally now are exploring it as marketing initiatives, it is the next marketing wave.

  30. Eldredge
    December 26, 2011

    I tend to agree  – consumer interaction is often about the specific transaction, where business-to-business interaction is often about what each party can bring to a longer term relationship.

  31. Laurie Sullivan
    December 26, 2011

    What makes advertising in social media more interesting, or complicated (depending on how you view it), resides in the ability to turn public comments in Facebook, or tweets in Twitter, into ads. So, if you post a public comment in someone's Facebook stream and it includes the name of a brand, that brand can turn the comment into an ad. It's called Sponsored Stories. 

    December 27, 2011

    Is there any concern over unwanted advertisement on FB in that one could be seen to be endorsing a product to a wide audience when that was not the original intention?

  33. Ariella
    December 27, 2011

    Interesting question, FlyingScot. If you really wrote your comment only for your friends, I'd imagine you wouldn't expect it to be picked up on by some business, though in reality you'd be naive to imagine it would remain confidential. Tweets, on the other hand, are more public by nature, and companies do regularly monitor what people are saying about them on that forum. Sometimes people even use their complaining tweets as way to get some response when they have a problem with the compnay. Knowing that the whole world can see the complaint, the company is more likely to respond — if only to make a show of caring about its reputation and its customers. As for the positive tweets, I regularly see them retweeted by companies like Boden.

  34. Taimoor Zubar
    December 29, 2011

    @Ariella: The use of circles or categories does allow you to segerate what you share and post between different groups of people. However, your profile still exists as one profile which may not be so suitable if you're using it for business and personal use.

  35. Ariella
    December 29, 2011

    I'm not sure that would be a problem because you are only sending out posts to the circles you want to reveal them to. I know I'm in some people's circles who have put me in as a business acquaintance, and I never see their personal posts. So long as you avoid posting anything that could be embarrassing, which you should never do on any social media platform, it should be OK. You also now have the option of setting up a business or brand page on Google+, so you could do that for the strictly business posts. But I've seen many people use one profile effectively for business and personal sharing. 

  36. Taimoor Zubar
    December 29, 2011

    Let's say you want a different profile picture to be displayed to your friends that you don't business folks to see. You can't get that without maintaining two profiles on Facebook.

  37. Laurie Sullivan
    December 30, 2011

    You can make some photos private on Facebook. If it's not available today, I'm sure enough requests would get Facebook engineers to find a way that allows users to show one photo to friends and another to business associates.

  38. Nemos
    December 30, 2011

    Yes, you are right. It is the only way if you want to protect your personal life from business and vice versa. Two have two accounts it is one – way solution.

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