Changing the Channel: Networking VAR news

Jul 10 2009   7:39PM GMT

Building a channel social network? If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em

AmyKucharik Amy Kucharik Profile: AmyKucharik

This week on, I wrote about how channel partners are using social networking sites. Most of the partners I interviewed were at least experimenting with social media, but said that they weren’t ready to invest much time or money in it, because they hadn’t yet seen dramatic results. That being said, everyone I spoke with had some positive things to say about social media — especially about LinkedIn — and reported having been able to discover new leads, deepen existing relationships, engage in some form of online collaboration, or find more information about their vendors or prospective leads through a social networking forum.

There’s a lot of hype right now surrounding the topic of social networking, though, with countless pundits extolling the benefits of social media (and countless trade publications warning against making yourself look like a jerk online). Every day you hear about another vendor launching a new social media partner portal. (Not to mention the journalists and bloggers like me, regurgitating this information!)

Heather Clancy blogged about this topic in a post titled “Creating channel social business networks is not a trivial investment.” She provides some very clear and sane advice that cuts through the hype. First, she outlines her concern that vendors building private social networks especially for their channel partners will need to have a lot of patience and persistence to make these communities work. She points out many of the challenges these closed communities may face.

Finally, Clancy gives some practical advice for vendors as far as how to actually make closed partner social networks a success.

  • They could be used to create a way for your channel account managers and field teams to interact more seamlessly with partners in their geography. Why limit the “closed” network to your partners? In fact you shouldn’t. This might be a great way for them to be more in touch with teams across your company, to stay in closer step with deals that are in the works or be alerted about local activity that might be of mutual interest.
  • Systems engineers could contribute real-world insight into real-world problems. In some cases, social business networks are already being used as a collaboration tool for product development. As a real example, I’ll point you to the case of Chordiant Software, which uses a platform from Jive.
  • Success stories (and therefore best practices information) can be shared by your channel marketing team, especially in the form of video. In the brief experiments I’ve done with some of SWOT’s clients, I’ve found that the right video (in the form of a partner testimonial) usually gets more attention than written version of same.
  • By adding the right information widgets in the form of RSS feeds, you can all stay on top of competitive threats or developments.

Clancy concludes by saying that she thinks “every high-tech vendor SHOULD be evaluating a social networking or broader social media strategy,” but cautions that they may be better off using a proven platform, like LinkedIn, rather than trying to build their own. If the partners I interviewed are representative of the VAR and integrator community, vendors who follow Clancy’s advice and bring their social media efforts to a place where partners are already hanging out may fare better than those who try to do their own thing.

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