I learn something new every time I “tweet,” the act of sending out a status update, random thought, link or some other 140-character-limited message on the Twitter social media service.
I am absolutely a Twitter neophyte, someone who only has roughly 220 followers, although that grows by 5 or 6 people every day. One of my ex-CRN colleagues has something like 12,000-plus people keeping tabs on his updates. That’s a lot of responsibility!
I have had many, many debates with vendor channel managers and VARs about the business value of what Forrester Research calls social media. That term covers all manner of things, but I sort of think of it according to the three C’s: Web technology that lets you interact with a Community, Collaborate in real time and participate in Conversations that have relevance for your personal and professional life. As far as I can in my unscientific experience, some VARs, resellers and other IT solution providers are dabbling with social media, but many don’t see how it could possible pertain to their business.
While I think this is short-sighted and somewhat of a generational thing, I can see why. The fact is, many of the sales and marketing types out there in the channel spend a lot of their time in face-to-face meetings or preparing presentations and proposals. To them, social media is a distraction and a time suck. Not to mention the fact that many resellers that I’ve spoken with over the past year about communities and such say they are very reluctant to share what they consider to be “trade secrets” or “their secret sauce” in public forums. I’m not talking about more elite peer groups like Heartland Technology Group. What makes the Heartland Technology Group partnerships work is trust.
Peek over into the technical department, and the story is a little different. Engineers seem to have a totally different ethos when it comes to forums. They are more than willing to share ideas, tips and information that makes everyone’s job just a little bit easier.
My prediction for high-tech vendors that are experimenting with partner communities: You’ll see more traction from the technical sorts at your partners than from the sales types. Plan your content accordingly.
The big factor in community interaction, to me, is this: many resellers are very mobile. They spend most of their time NOT in the office.
Which brings me back to Twitter.
The reason that Twitter might appeal to folks in the channel is the fact that it’s very mobile. Your updates can be sent and received on your mobile phone. Or you can choose to use some of the Web applications that have developed for managing Twitter activity.
Here are three ways you could use Twitter as a channel manager:
- Keep partners informed about new marketing and demand generation tools. You can embed links back to your partner portal for the actual content.
- Share competitive intelligence.
- Alert VARs about technical issues or product news.
And, if you’re a VAR you might want to think about the following:
- Let customers know about new services
- Keep your team abreast of competitive developments.
- Establish yourself as an expert on a topic near and dear to your business.
Finally, I want to direct you to a few bits of extra-credit reading.
You can follow my own Twitter updates here. Warning: I totally have attention-deficit tendencies, so I ramble all over the place about everything from green technology developments to the fact that I have a robin’s nest, complete with fledglings, outside my bedroom window.