Social Media and Partnering: What's working?

Posted: 9/3/2009 by Norma Watenpaugh

Findings from a Survey Conducted by Phoenix Consulting GroupOf the 20 partner managers we interviewed, most were realizing productive benefits from the use of social media. Benefits were described in terms of strengthening relationships versus the hard metrics of generating leads and revenue.Yet as many of the activities were integrated into the process of doing business, the bottom line impact may be real but subtle and less easily measured.Functional benefits included:

Communicate “ Many partner managers stressed that social media is a different mode of communication.Social media forums are more two-way and more interactive, organic. This is both the appeal and the fear.Once youve let this genie out there is no turning back.You need to be prepared for what you get back from the community. You also need to be prepared that the traditional notion of authorized company spokesperson is no longer relevant.Everyone in the company is empowered to be heard whether at work or in their personal on-line activity.

Build Loyalty “ A primary attraction of social media is the development of communities.Communities naturally foster a sense of belonging, of loyalty.All the technology companies interviewed had private partner communities on their portals and were using many of the social media tools to foster dialog within their partner ecosystems. These took the form of networks on their password protected portals and public sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Beyond these planned communities, we see a trend toward spontaneous communities, such as on-line user groups.Some organizations are actively fostering these external communities and finding new ways to bring value to their partner ecosystems.

Listen “ A very powerful opportunity is leveraging social media as a means of collecting business intelligence.Some companies are actively using these media to understand the issues and trends within their customer and partner communities. Both customers and partners are often present within the same communities in social media. One developer used the twittersphere to reference a partner, checking to see how the reviews were trending. In this instance, the trend was not good and the partner in question was not actively monitoring and managing their on-line reputation.

Collaborate On public social media, Twitter and Facebook for example, collaboration was very tactical and ad hoc. It amounted to answering questions or addressing support issues.More structured collaboration did not suit the public media.We found that within the context of strategic alliances, for example, collaboration platforms such as Lotus Notes, Sharepoint, WebEx Connect or in some cases proprietary platforms served this need more effectively, especially where protected IP was involved and controlled access security was required.

Branding “ Where consumer companies often describe their brand as an emotional response and relationship with their customers, it is not a far stretch to comprehend how social media can be used to enhance a company brand and online reputation.Managing and projecting a companys online brand is visible to the partner community and to partners customer community.We also saw that companies were using social media to build personal brands for their top executives.Contact the author at normaw@phoenixcg.com for the full white paper on this research.

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