Should you be using social media to engage with partners, or should you be enabling partners to engage their own customers?
There’s a dangerous? undercurrent we see developing among channel? marketing organizations? trying to deal with the? confusing landscape of social media options? that can? best be called “Checking Off the Social Media Box.” Everyone knows social media is important, but it’s hard to pin down exactly where it adds the most value, so business objectives get over-simplified to reduce the confusion.
Channel marketers are some of the? smartest and most engaged marketing professionals I’ve ever met, but they’re? working in an environment of nearly constant disruption and under constant pressure to deliver results. Platform vendors are? pitching all kinds of new channel marketing products and services,? new technologies emerge nearly? every month to connect various pieces of the partner relationship? puzzle, and it seems like every other channel? team? is in the middle of a forced reorganization. It’s like trying to stand on the deck of a ship in stormy seas.
Should you be using social media to engage with partners? Should you be enabling partners to engage their own customers? Should you be feeding partners ready-made social content, or giving? them the resources? to create their own? Should social media? be the basis of a partner portal, or an addition? Should? it be a partner communications program, or a field marketing program, or a partner sales program??
For a few, rare companies with the resources and vision to push an aggressive partner agenda, the answer is: Yes. For most companies, however, it’s too hard to cut through the confusion? to find the best foothold, and the result is an oversimplification of the problem to “just do something social” based on whichever? part of the channel team has some budget. We see this reflected in many partner marketing toolsets in which “social media” is promoted as? part of their platform mix, but when you dig down into the offering, it turns out “social” is just a? sprinkling? of link-sharing buttons placed prominently? around the application. As long as the over-worked buyer can check off the social media box, it’s all good. In five different applications “social media” may mean five different things, from content syndication to link-sharing, but in too many cases? it’s just a coat of whitewash to make it through the procurement process.
Checking off the social media box is okay–as long as you don’t expect any meaningful and measurable results, and as long as your job doesn’t depend on those results. If your job does depend on delivering results, it helps to filter? the mess of? social media imperatives down? and prioritize them according to how close they come to driving revenue.
We strongly believe that? generating qualified leads with social media is the tip of the spear, and should be focused on with a small selection of elite partners as an agile field-marketing initiative. The goal is to enable the most promising partners to build their social selling capabilities, with content that resonates directly with your positioning strategy. Enabling those partners will drive engagement and loyalty, and give you critical insights into exactly how social media can help drive channel revenue. Once you can demonstrate the ability to drive qualified leads with social media, you can expand the program to include more partners, and add additional layers of partner communications features as you go.
The point is to start with a clear focus and a limited scope, focused on driving partner revenue, so you can tune your efforts and show results. That’s the vision that drives our product and supporting services, so social media is never just about checking off a box.