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Acer America
Acer America Corp. is a computer manufacturer of business and consumer PCs, notebooks, ultrabooks, projectors, servers, and storage products.

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333 West San Carlos Street
San Jose, California 95110
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WWW: acer.com

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August 26, 2010 |

Social Media and the Art of Influence

Take some advice from Gartner and look to best practices when implementing a marketing communications strategy for your company, and help generate leads in the process. By Colleen Frye

Social Media and the Art of Influence

Take some advice from Gartner and look to best practices when implementing a marketing communications strategy for your company, and help generate leads in the process.

By Colleen Frye

Richard Fouts, a research director at Gartner, analyzes best practices in marketing management for technology and service providers. Here are his views about how partner programs and partners themselves are starting to incorporate social media, and some of the unique qualities of this new channel.

ChannelPro-SMB: How would you describe the level of adoption of social media by partners?

Fouts: I think they’re lagging a bit. When you get into distributors, OEMs, VARs, they’re less sophisticated when it comes to digital media. Certainly very large partners and system integrators that understand social media are putting someone in charge, adopting social media guidelines, and pulling that into lead-generation campaigns. Smaller partners and distributors still do not fully understand how to use social media.

That’s where organizations like Partnerpedia add some value. A lot of partners and distributors don’t have a marketing department, and they will find this social media trend kind of puzzling. With Partnerpedia, vendors can send their partners to that. It’s a site for partners and vendors to congregate. It’s a good business generator for everyone.

ChannelPro-SMB: What are some ways vendors are using social media?

Fouts: Big companies like Cisco, Oracle, HP, and IBM are all starting to use social media to engage partners. They’re all using webcasting to train partners, which is fantastic. It’s so expensive, especially for smaller partners, to travel to a vendor facility and train.

You see all the big vendors using YouTube for partner training. Cisco, for example, runs a partner marketing forum. In the last one they were teaching partners how to use video and get their own YouTube channel. Vendors are definitely a source for teaching partners how they can develop more brand awareness.

Certainly if you go onto Twitter and search “Cisco partners” or “HP partners,” you’ll find a whole series of tweets that vendors are distributing. [Social media] has become a very high-adoption, very mainstream way of communicating between partners and vendors. It’s well passed the fad stage and clearly ingrained.

ChannelPro-SMB: You wrote about the OraclePartner Network’s use of social media. What are some of the things they did right?

Fouts: What they really did right was the hub-and-spoke model. Oracle traditionally is quite good at bringing new things into those that exist. They did not set out to develop a social media strategy. They have a marketing/communications strategy, so [they asked] how does social media fit in? They didn’t want to create another stovepipe, which is what some companies do—they’ll create a Twitter strategy, for example. I hate to hear that, because you run the risk of getting multiple messages going.

ChannelPro-SMB: What else did Oracle do right?

Fouts: They listened and moderated discussions, but they realized they couldn’t control the conversation, and they were careful not to get defensive when a partner said something that might be considered critical.

Oracle and Judson Althoff [vice president, worldwide alliances and channels] are very transparent and sincere in their communication. When you take on that tone, people are less apt to be harsh critics. With the Sun acquisition [Oracle was] very transparent to partners, keeping them well informed, and what that meant to them. Judson is committed to their blog.

ChannelPro-SMB: What are the pitfalls of social media?

Fouts: First, you’ve got to put someone in charge. Someone needs to own it and see what’s being said about the company. You’ve got to learn you can’t control the conversation, but you can influence it. I don’t think people are experienced in the art of influence. Even marketers come from a world of one-way messages. Now they’re getting feedback rapidly and they can’t control those conversations.

People who understand influence are salespeople—they get objections from customers every day. People in corporate communication and those who manage investor relations have conversations that are often contentious. Marketers need to learn from their counterparts in sales and media/analyst relations. You will see more vendors and partners themselves teaching their people what it means to influence.


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