Yeah, social media is all the rage in channel marketing these days, but like sex in junior high school, everyone is talking about it, but no one is really doing it.
Clearly, social media has its place in today’s marketing mix. That place is defined by your industry in general, and your own social media strategy in specific. So how social media fits in your marketing mix is beyond the scope of this writing, the bigger question often asked by our clients is: “Can/should we reimburse for social media as an activity within our promotional allowance program?” The answer, like most in marketing is “it depends.”
Promotional allowance programs at their core are based on:
- Reimbursement for expenses incurred by channel partners to do mutually beneficial sales/marketing programs
- Established proof-of-performance that an activity took place (evidence that can be counted or tracked)
- Provide clear ROI, with business outcomes that are directly attributable to your brand/products
- Assuring message consistency throughout all branded, channel, and consumer communications
Your ability to overcome the challenges expressed above as it relates to social media that will define your answer as to whether it’s a reimburseable activity or not in your MDF program.
However, here are some general thoughts on what we’re observing today:
- None of our clients are offering reimbursement for social media efforts as of yet.
One “best practice” may be to provide a comprehensive tool box to help partners start, or contribute to established social media vehicles promoting your brand or products (e.g.: “how to” flash or video content)
- If “reimbursement” is the issue, consider a sponsorship of private social media efforts (user group bulletin boards) that is either ‘flat rate’ or tied to overall audience size.
- Consider the development of a sponsored social media vehicle of your own, in which partners are encouraged to participate as the “experts”-this however ignores popular the vehicles already in place, and thus shouldn’t be your only approach.
Bottom line: don’t feel that you have to be the first on your block to provide reimbursement for social media efforts through your promotional allowance program, but do feel free to experiment and to come up with creative ways to extend your own social media strategies down through the channel to encourage partner participation, collaboration and message consistency.