The Social Perils of Through Partner Marketing Automation

Through Partner Marketing Sock PuppetsOver the past several years, channel marketing has advanced tremendously with new techniques and technologies. The general trend line is driven by the imperative for manufacturers to enable partners to market more efficiently and effectively, and to gain better visibility into the performance and return on investment for those partner marketing efforts. But how does it apply to social media?

Through Partner Marketing Automation (TPMA) is a current manifestation of this trend and revolves primarily around marketing automation systems that allow partners to easily access and distribute a manufacturer’s marketing materials, and in some cases to seamlessly integrate those materials into their own digital assets. For example, a partner could host a web page for a product on their website in which the content is actually served up behind the scenes by the manufacturer, so that any updates to the content are immediately and automatically updated to all partner websites at the same time. TPMA streamlines the marketing process, and eliminates a lot of opportunities for errors and inconsistencies.

The advantages of TPMA are compelling, but while TPMA works very well for content like data sheets, white papers and campaigns, the same approach is very problematic for social marketing. Social marketing is based on the idea of building rapport with your market community—it’s based on businesses participating in market dialog and debate about everything from product features to government regulations.

To succeed in social marketing, businesses must be authentic participants in the conversation. Sure, social networks are full of businesses grasping for “likes” with a stream of canned PR Tweets and social updates, but these are not successful tactics. Successful social marketers offer links to objective content that is relevant to their customers, they offer their own insights on articles they read and share with the community, and they respond to the discussions that are driving engagement without relying on automatic responders. In short, they are real, authentic players in the discussion.

How do you enable partners to be authentic participants in market dialog by pushing them a stream of canned Tweets to reshare to their social networks? You don’t. In the first place, you’d be sending your partners the wrong message—asking them to be little more than parrots squawking about your products to the market. In the second place, you’d be sending the wrong message to the market, filling their feeds with tone-deaf messages that are replicated many times over. If a prospective customer searches for mentions of your product in social media, and comes up with a stream of verbatim updates all coming from different partners, it just looks like spam.

The way to enable your partners for social media is to provide them with the fuel for participating in market dialog, while empowering them to put their own simple spin on what they share. For example, if you’re a telecom manufacturer selling firewalls, you can provide your partners with access to a never-ending stream of the latest real-time news and content about security, and give them the tools to share that content easily to their own social networks in their own voice. In that way, you eliminate the biggest hurdle to social marketing—the time it takes to source good things to share—while ensuring your partners stay on message with content that is relevant to both you and your customers.

Technically this is still Through Partner Marketing—you’re enabling your partners to more efficiently and effectively market on your behalf. But adapted for the requirements of social marketing, it enables partners to bring their own voice to the conversation while sharing the content that helps you tell your brand story.

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