5 Ways VARs and MSPs Can Master Social Media Marketing
One of the questions I hear most from channel partners I interact with is: “I want to incorporate social media into my marketing efforts but I don’t know how. Can you help me?” (I’m a marketer – they don’t ask me about their technology problems!) Some of you may have already figured out social media marketing strategies, but thousands of VARs and MSPs are still scratching their heads and wondering where to start.
So, here are 5 tips I used to kickstart my own efforts, 4 years ago:
1. Understand your customers
The most common mistake I see companies making when trying to incorporate social media into their marketing efforts is to try everything and see what sticks. The social web doesn’t mean all marketing principles go out the window – remember to start by understanding your target audiences (prospects and customers) and find out where they are having conversations and where they go for information. Don’t be misled by the popularity of certain sites – for example, Facebook may be the most popular, but if your customers are IT Managers of community banks, they may not be using Facebook for business purposes. Instead, there may be an industry association online community, or LinkedIn Group where they go for information and to network. If you’re not sure where your customers hang out online, do some online sleuthing or find out the old fashioned way – ask them!
2. Think quality over quantity
One key change that the social web has brought to the way customers make buying decisions is the speed in which information is exchanged. Rather than trying to be on every social media channel that exists, be realistic of what internal resources you have to manage these initiatives. It’s better to have a corporate blog that you update once or twice a week consistently with good content than have every account known to man (Twitter! Quora! Facebook! Foursquare!) that remain stagnant for weeks or months or is a one-way broadcast mechanism.
Divide up the effort where it makes sense – at Asigra we have a number of contributors to our corporate blog, across many departments. The skills required to be good at digital marketing are different from what some traditional marketers have. Encourage your staff to get up to speed by attending workshops, webinars or reading, or bring in outside help to learn how to make your marketing efforts more effective by incorporating digital marketing initiatives.
3. Learn from the experts
I was hesitant to use the word expert here, since so many people refer to themselves as social media gurus, but there are people out there who understand how to use social media as an effective marketing tool and you can learn a lot from their Tweets, blog posts and LinkedIn answers. Set up an RSS reader to automatically receive their insight and make it a part of your morning or evening routine to read their advice or observe how they interact with people online. A few people that I recommend paying attention to are not from the channel community, but are just smart people who understand digital (and have lots of personality as well!). For the sake of brevity I’m listing their Twitter handles but check out their profile pages for more links: @stevedupe, @augieray, @aprildunford, @sfoskett, @MichaelProcopio, @interpretivist.
4. Integrate online with offline
While online marketing is what all the buzz is about, I know from working with the channel community that face-to-face interaction still matters, as relationships are a key part of why your customers choose you over a competitor. Use online marketing to augment your face to face activities – for example a Twitter chat can entice people to learn more about the subject by attending a breakfast roundtable at your office. Or use your email newsletter to give an abstract of a printed guide that you can mail out to interested prospects. Or use Foursquare to promote a special offer to businesses in your community.
5. Show some personality
Expanding on my earlier point that you are in a relationship business, don’t be afraid to show some personality online, to help you stand out from the crowd and provide a human connection to the prospects and customers you are connecting with. Jennifer Walzer, who writes a great blog for the New York Times on her experience as the CEO of an MSP business, talks about her work but also interjects anecdotes about her family, staff, and new baby.
These are just a few tips to get started to rejuvenate your marketing efforts. What do you think? Do you have any other tips to share or examples of channel partners adapting their marketing efforts with social media?
Amrita Chandra is senior director of corporate marketing for Asigra Inc., the cloud backup experts. Monthly guest blogs such as this one are part of TalkinCloud’s annual platinum sponsorship.