We all have several friends or acquaintances who have been logging a lot of time in front of their computer screens and attending a never-ending succession of networking events-all in the name of moving from the ranks of the unemployed to the employed. With recent figures showing six applicants per each US job opening, it's an unenviable position in which to be. An exponentially growing number of hiring employers are clamoring for applicants with social networking skills. Similarly, IT manufacturers view the phenomenon as "the next big thing" as it relates to their channel partners' marketing activities on their behalf.
Is it the next big thing? Yes!
Before you can expect the channel to leverage social networking tools to market your widgets, you need a clear idea of what these tools are, what they can do for you, what you want them to do for you, and how your partners can use them for your benefit.
Most everyone is familiar with and has a relatively clear understanding of the blogosphere, thanks to at least several blogs (ie, The Drudge Report, The Huffington Post) that have transitioned into the mainstream. Facebook and other such social networking sites, including Twitter, LinkedIn, and MySpace, are what you might call "next-generation blogs" with hundreds of millions of members. Their sheer mass popularity should inspire manufacturers to make haste in leveraging these newest of marketing tools.
Think about this for a minute. You long ago enlisted-and have for many years leveraged-your channel partners' marketing and promotional expertise based on stodgy-but-still-effective snail mailings, telephone contact, face-to-face sales calls to end-users, and, most recently, email. The telephone, quite some time ago, was the latest and greatest social networking tool around. Do you hear me, Mr. Bell?
Regardless of the tools your channel partners use to reach end-users, they can afford to allocate more dedicated people and financial resources to social media-driven marketing and promotional activities than you can. Sure, your employees can dabble on these sites on your behalf in their spare time, but there's also a clear and present danger that they'll be spending an inordinate amount of time playing on them instead of performing their primary job functions.
Setting up a free Facebook or Twitter account is infinitely less time-consuming than reaching prospects the old-fashioned way; You can easily do it yourself with a minimum of effort. But your channel partners can assign specific employees whose sole responsibility is to populate your online business profile with news and missives about your product offerings, special promotions and events, and other information designed to drive traffic to your corporate website and, in general, generate buzz .
End-users become friends of your corporation and have the unlimited ability to post thoughts, concerns, and suggestions regarding your product offerings, technology integration opportunities and issues, and reviews of how your widget, combined with your channel partners' technical wizardry, has solved a specific business problem.
Positive postings like this snowball into electronic word-of-mouth on behalf of both your company and your channel partners, generating instant sales leads and referrals while positioning the two of you as visionary leaders in your respective, tangential fields. Conversely, you and your partners have an immediate opportunity, in the same forum, to quickly address any negatives about your product or service, demonstrating your customer service commitment and responsiveness.
Pretty simple, isn't it? Are you working with your channel partners to social network? If not, what are you waiting for?