How Channel Partners Can Extend Your Brand

This blog series explores topics laid out in our free white paper:? 12 Essential Tips for Socializing the Channel

? Channel Partners Can Extend Your BrandThe second benefit I claimed in? Socialive Channel? is that vendors and manufacturers who build effective partner communities with social media can access new ways to differentiate and promote their brands. This is an easy claim to substantiate, but there are pitfalls if you go about it the wrong way. So let’s look at the issues.

Amplifying Your Message

The most obvious way to leverage social media to promote your brand with your partner community is through updates to social networks. Just about every partner wants to build their own reputation through social media, and they’re hungry for guidance and support. The low hanging fruit is to provide your partners with a stream of content ready to post. Partners win because they don’t have to do the hard work of finding content, and vendors wine because they leverage their partner’s social networks to amplify the message. In theory.

Some companies see this opportunity and immediately create a stream of canned updates ready for partners to share, as well as employees. There are several reasons why this is a bad idea:

  1. The same updates will show up many times across different user accounts on the same social network if a hashtag is used, or if the updates show up in a search result or monitoring scan. That makes it clear you’re gaming the system, which erodes brand trust.
  2. When you turn partners and employees into mere conduits for the information you want to push, you’re using them, which undermines loyalty and a willingness among employees and partners to be a brand ambassador.
  3. By pushing the same post through many user accounts, you put forward a cheap and brittle brand message. Your message should be modulated and tailored for different circles and different networks, which can only be accomplished when your partners and employees recast the updates in their own way.

The best way to amplify your message is to empower partners and employees with a rich source of targeted and relevant content they can easily reshare in their own voice to the networks they value. Typically that means using some type of curation or feed service that makes it easy for users to select from a variety of good content, easy for users to customize the content to make the updates their own, and easy for both you and your users to track with an embedded source code in the URL. (These are the core drivers behind our development of? Socialrep.)

Promoting Your Brand

By making content available for partners to share, but giving them the ability to truly own what they share, you build brand trust with both your partners and your market. The content is more authentic, and your partners are more engaged because you help them succeed in one of the most difficult tasks in social media: always having something relevant and timely to share.

The biggest challenge, once you get a system in place, is determining the scope and focus of the content you want partners to share. For this, you need to do some homework and most likely collaborate with corporate communications. We leverage a methodology and workshopping process that produces what we call a Topic Tree. We start with the core messaging categories that make up your messaging platform–the key problems you solve, the differentiating benefits you offer–and work those into a hierarchy of content topics and subtopics that are relevant to you, your partners, and your customers.

The Topic Tree determines the content that will be collected and syndicated, provides a reference point against which the flow of content can be continually measured, and also informs the metrics and dashboards that will help you determine what topics are driving interest and results.

Differentiating Your Brand

The big advantage in empowering your partners to tailor content for their own networks is not only the added energy partners put in because they’re also helping themselves, but differentiation that helps broaden the market’s understanding of your brand. Each partner is not only promoting your brand when they post updates that resonate with your core positioning topics, they are also differentiating themselves and their value-adding promise to customers.

There are countless points of differentiation among partners, and those differentiating points add texture to your own positioning. For example, the partners for a client of ours in the telecommunications space had many different specialties and differentiating approaches. One partner focused on “Mission Critical Wireless”, another partner focused on “Network Automation”, another focused on “High Performance Networks”. Among dozens of partners we workshopped, we were amazed to find only a handful had very similar messages, and it was easy to modulate them to create some separation.

To see all the posts in our Social Channel series, click the Social Channel tag below.?

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