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Partners Should Start Committing to Social Media Marketing

Committing to a social media marketing strategy is a tough pledge for most partners to make. Paybacks aren't immediate and the time investment can be substantial. Yet as young people begin to move up through the ranks of business to become the buyers you serve, is there a choice?

It Takes One To Know One
After feeling that the money spent on outsourced social media marketing was not delivering adequate returns, Ric Opal, vice president of Peters & Associates, a Chicago-based multi-competency partner, decided to hire a young person to manage the company's social media. 

"We created a new position and hired a recent college grad. He manages social and has additional digital marketing responsibilities," Opal said. "We've sent him to social media boot camp to learn from others immersed in the tactics. Whoever manages your social media needs to be connected to the social marketing community."

The approach is apparently working. Peters & Associates earned the 2013 Microsoft Midwest Area Partner and Central Region Partner awards at the Worldwide Partner Conference in July.

"We use social to cultivate our brand and as a lever to drive SEO," Opal said. "People who are interested are eventually going to go to your Web site to figure out exactly what you do. Having a clear message of how you add value to the technology on your home page is critical."  

To simplify the mechanics of social media management, Peters & Associates uses Hootsuite to send out Tweets and monitor for social traction. Tweets are sent out on a regular schedule, driving to the company blog and to Microsoft content. Compensation motivates Peters & Associates' field professionals to write regular posts keeping the company blog content relevant. A Web site refresh is in the works that will better capitalize on their social and blogging activity.

A Fundamental Shift for Every Business
The need to make social media a part of doing business is shared by partners and customers alike. Every business has to adjust to the fundamental shift in how we interact with employees, customers, vendors and prospects. By using and becoming familiar with the tools and the challenges themselves, partners are in a better position to fully understand and assist customers.

"We need to be able to speak in the marketing vernacular to our customers. To help them drive sales and connect with their customers in different ways -- and on different devices," Opal noted. "Partners can't afford to be socially illiterate. You have to speak the customer's language."

To that end, Peters & Associates is using Yammer internally to gain an understanding of how its customers may use it. Gaining familiarity first hand with all of the evolving tools in the Microsoft stack has always been a best practice of courageous partners.   

The Changing Landscape
As the digital natives work their way through college and into the business world, they change the ground rules for customer engagement. Partners can choose to ignore or adapt to the changing landscape -- the former at their peril.

"If you are not out making noise and someone else is, buyers will be led to someone...and it's not going to be you," Opal said. "Much like having a Web site is a basic requirement, social is a required component for every partner. It's just a reality." 

How are you using social media to promote your business? Add a comment below or send me a note and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on October 31, 2013