Friday, March 5, 2010

Resellers and Social Media: Let the Vendors Pay

Last week I gave a talk in front of a couple university business classes about channel marketing and the use of social media in the channel. There were over 60 university students and not one was on Twitter, yet all were on Facebook. My company has jumped into the Social Media head first and this really got me thinking about what we are jumping into.

There is no question that Social Media as an important, alternative method to develop an ongoing dialogue with your customers. Social Media allows direct support of all kinds (tech, sales, etc.), builds brand awareness, allows brand monitoring, engages product champions and generally enables a level of conversation with customers that just isn’t possible thru “traditional” marketing means.

However, the level of marketing hyperbole and the sheer number of consultants comparing Social Media to the impact of first personal computer should naturally give us all pause. And the fear mongering about being left behind doesn’t scare me into abandoning common sense. Gartner Group predicts that thru 2012, 70% of all social media efforts will fail. I couldn’t in good conscience recommend solutions to my clients that will fail.

The second pause has to do with the industry I work in, channel marketing. The really big elephant in the room is that social media is an excellent method to develop an ongoing dialogue between vendors and customers, which has left the reseller out in the cold. Resellers have typically thrived thru personal touch and that is usually manifested in-person visits and phone calls.

Resellers are busy and the cost of maintaining the presence needed to truly utilize social media in a way that reaps the greatest benefit is significant. There are not any tried and true methods of ROI calculation in Social Media, so being smart about how and when to jump in is common sense.

Resellers should be aware of Social Media and incorporate Social Media in their 2010 business plan after engaging their vendors for support.

· Why not wait for vendor leadership – given that the vendors know they need to address how to incorporate resellers into their Social Media initiatives.

· How about asking for sponsorship thru vendor MDF funds and let someone else foot the bill?

If anyone has a great reseller story of the use of Social Media (and the resulting ROI), I’d love to hear about it.