Social media to communicate TO partners? NO!
I will be bold… emails and newsletters are STILL the best way to communicate to partners. Sending partners Direct Messages via Twitter assumes they have a Twitter account. Involving them in a LinkedIn group is good but how many partners will want to get engaged this way?
So, if you want to get your partners up-to-date with your news, I would suggest you use emails… but you will need to do it cost-effectively and provide targeted news to each and every one of your partners. I know this can be done and we, at purechannelapps™, can help there with our own newsondemand® platform.
Social media to communicate to your prospects and customers THROUGH partners? YES!
This is where I think you should focus your efforts – help your partners re-post your great brand content and let them use this content to generate interests with their own contacts, via social media.
You could start like many vendors do, and do it manually. Someone in your partner marketing function produces or shares relevant content to your partners via email, and then these partners copy and paste that into their social media accounts and post it.
Simple? Yes. Effective? No.
Often when marketers embark on this type marketing journey, it starts off well, but enthusiasm tails off, and it fizzles out.
Why? Because your partners often don’t have the time or resource to do your marketing. It’s as simple as that. Besides that, often the posts sound like they’ve come from you, content is untargeted and therefore irrelevant to them, or their customers, and there’s no data to demonstrate it’s actually doing anything.
Anecdotally, this is the point at which most of our customers approach us.
Social media amplification
It’s clear that manual isn’t the way to go. My biggest tip for you is to invest in the right social media amplification platform to help you (and your partners) manage and automate the process.
You need a platform which works both for you and your partners, which enables you to ‘do social media’ globally and which includes all your routes-to-markets, sales employees and other brand advocates.
Xerox, for instance, a customer of ours, knew that being able to target specific content to specific partners in many different languages, and many different locations was critical. Posting to Xing and Viadeo was also big for them. They also needed an enterprise-class platform which was reliable, had a robust reporting engine, and was scalable to their future needs.
Once you have automated your content creation, approval and syndication processes, and once your partners can find and post your content quickly, you will be able to make social media work for you.
Train your partners
My next tip is fairly self-explanatory. Firstly, your partners aren’t necessarily the best marketers. Why? Because they probably don’t have a team of marketers like you. They need to understand the importance of building a social presence, and how your programme works.
Training on site, workshops, conference calls and ongoing support is an incredibly effective way of building social engagement with your channel partners.
The trade-off is that you can’t get to everyone, and it can be expensive and time-intensive.
This is so often overlooked when I see channel marketers. It shouldn’t be. After choosing the right platform, and training your partners, the content you’re syndicating is what will set apart a successful programme from an unsuccessful one.
The key to a content strategy is variety and quality.
Your content is gasoline, and social media is fire. To get the best results, you’ll need to mix up your own content with thought-leadership pieces and industry news, hence providing real value-added content which your partners will be happy to share and their followers happy to read.
Ever since I started in the channel marketing world back in the early 1990s, getting partners to involve themselves in your marketing has always been wrought with issues. Why? Your partners have a lot of work to do and don’t want to dedicate resources to market YOUR products.
This is where gamification comes in; creating competition amongst your partners and within their own teams will drive a mutually beneficial outcome for you and them. You should create simple leader boards showing where partners are vis-a-vis of their tiers when it comes to their social media activities and engagement will go a long way, especially if this ‘game’ is tied to actual commercial benefits.
What does success look like to you?
The last point to a successful campaign is defining success for you.
If you’re looking at Y1 ROI, or generating leads through your social programme, then choose a solution which incorporates lead generation, capturing leads and sending them to the people who can sell, in real time.
If you’re looking at it purely from a brand perspective, then look at a solution which is scalable to a large number of partners, employees and other stakeholders, and is easy enough for a wide range of people to use.
Ultimately, building a successful channel social programme is about starting right, knowing what you want and need, knowing how to build and maintain momentum, whilst knowing what success looks like for you.