May 2012 Feature

Social Media Secrets for Channel Champions

by Anna Johnson

social worldPopular social media tools like blogging, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook have already been embraced by companies as part of their corporate communication strategy. However, this strategy rarely leverages the channel to broaden their reach. One popular misconception is that partners don’t have a social network to leverage. However, spend a few minutes testing this assumption by conducting a quick partner search on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter and you will quickly find out that many channel partners have converted their Rolodex contacts into Facebook fans, LinkedIn connections, and Twitter followers. Now that you know the social network exists, how best to tap into it is the million-dollar question.

Channel Management Insights sat down with Olivier Choron, CEO and Founder of Purechannelapps, to discuss how companies can connect with prospects and customers through partners with an effective social media strategy.

Tap Into a Trusted Network – The Social Network

Social networks are by their very nature, open, conversational, viral, accessible, and current (up-to-date). But “the most important trait of social networks is that they are built on trust,” says Olivier. “Social networks and the media that is distributed on those social networks are considered trustworthy because the people who are participating in the network are proactively opting into it.” Trust as a specific trait of social media is responsible for outperforming traditional print and digital advertising. “It’s not unusual to see double to eight times the amount of click-throughs on links that are distributed through partner social networks compared to email and search engine marketing campaigns,” Olivier states. Combine higher click-through rates with the low cost associated with social media; it’s easy to decide to leverage your channel partners’ social network as part of your overall social media strategy.

Four Social Media Strategy Tips

Tip #1 – Content Is King

Guess what?! The time you’ve spent recording webinars, writing whitepapers, eBooks, presentations and research reports as objects for your calls to action…you can repurpose the content! “You don’t need to create brand new content as part of your channel partner social media strategy,” advises Olivier. “Instead, partners need short, repeatable, and relevant snippets with a trackable link to that content for them to tweet, share on their Facebook page, and post on their company blog.” Partner social networks grow when there’s a lot of activity and driving your content through that network helps to keep the momentum up. “The trick is to make sure your content is relevant to the social network,” advises Olivier. For example, if your partner focuses on SMB then include key terms, hashtags and solutions that are relevant to the SMB market. This precise messaging helps to gain traction with your partner and its followers.

Tip #2 – Partner Branded Messaging Goes Viral

One of the mistakes that vendors make is to push their brand over their partners. “Don’t underestimate the power of your channel partner’s brand when using social media,” says Olivier. In fact, your partner’s brand is totally trusted by their social network. “Vendors need to enable partners to claim the social media messages as their own.” For example, if a vendor shares a tweetable message with their channel partners, then partners need to be able to post that message to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn so that it appears to come directly from the partner and not the vendor (for example, no retweets or “shared via vendor xyz” on Facebook). The benefit of partner-branded messaging is the increase you’ll see in shares and click-throughs. “Social media messages that are partner-branded are more likely to be clicked on and shared than social media messages that are vendor-branded,” says Olivier.

Tip #3 – Reinforce Partners as Experts

Partners are seen as the experts to their social network. They are the trusted advisors to their customers. However, they don’t always have the capacity or the content to demonstrate their expertise through social media. “Vendors who reinforce their partners as the experts through social media will see higher rates of partners sharing that social media content,” advises Olivier. Partner adoption is the first step to reaching your customer audience, and recognizing that your partner is the trusted expert in the sales process will sway hesitant partners into proactive social media sharing partners.

Tip #4 – Train Partners

Just because your channel partners have an established social network doesn’t mean they are social media experts. “The channel is really great at establishing a social network. What they need help with is growing the network and providing guidance on what to say and distribute over the network,” says Olivier. “I recommend vendors provide partner training on the benefits of social media and how to grow the partner network,” adds Olivier. By providing social media training in addition to creating partner branded content, vendors enable the channel to maximize the effectiveness of their social networks.

Conclusion

Social media adoption is well established as part of an effective corporate communication strategy. In a misguided approach, some vendors only see partners as an audience to market to through social media. Instead, adopt the best practice of using social media to reach customers and prospects through partner social networks. When you do, you’ll discover the hidden potential of social media, your partner social networks, and new business waiting for the taking.

For additional information on how to reach your customers through channel social networks, check out Purechannelapps’ list of resources to help create your channel social media plan today.