Collaborating and Connecting With Channel Partners Using Social Networks

The temptation to log on and hang out on Facebook can be enormous. Admit it – you love reading what your friends are up to during the day and are usually thinking of something clever to post yourself. After all, where else can you connect with close friends, smart colleagues, and interesting customers, vendors, and partners to share links, stories, ideas, videos, photos, and more? Yes, you can go to a neighborhood party or a business luncheon – but not in your pajamas (unless it's a pajama party) and typically not on your own time or your own schedule. Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, and other social networking sites have those same addictive qualities. The trick is to harness that addiction into a time that is spent collaborating and connecting with your channel partners. And it can be done.

What makes channel partnerships successful is the relationship that blossoms behind the scenes. It's easy enough to claim someone as a partner, make a proud announcement in a press release, place a link to that partner on your website – and then move on. That channel partnership is clearly in name only. You have not even begun to nurture a relationship that has so much potential for both partners. Social networking actually makes you more accountable simply because what you post – what you say – is out there for all to read. It is very, very viral.

So how can you use social networking sites to collaborate and nurture your channel partnership relationships? By using simply social networking strategies and applying them directly to what is most important to your channel partners:

• Be real. You have to be. Write posts and tweet with relevant, useful information that your channel partners want and need. Slick marketing speak and sales pitches don't work here, folks. You need to be transparent. We are now marketing in a world where buyers are accustomed to piercing through your facade.
• Ask questions via your posts and tweets. Get to the root of the key issues and concerns of your channel partners – and then solve them right there on the social networking site, for all to see! You'll address your channel partners' needs immediately, instead of dancing around the issue, which will only force them to find another VAR to partner with.
• Build your reputation. By offering insightful posts and interesting tidbits on trends, new products, and alternative ways to solve problems, you establish your solid platform as the Super VAR that everyone wants to work with. Social networking provides an outlet to build this reputation, where two channel partners tell two more prospects about your talents, and they tell two people, and so on and so on until you accumulate quite a following.
• Ditch traditional marketing ways. Your social networking experience should be exempt of blatant self-promotion. Social network sites are all about exchanging useful information between partners who can benefit from each other. Your channel partners will see right through you if you start splashing your posts with promotional information.
• Post often, but not too often. If you have to think too hard to come up with three or more insightful posts a day, chances are, you're actually thinking too hard. Remember, posts and exchanges should provide insight and long-term benefits to channel partners. Random "chatter" is just going to turn off channel partners, and they'll skim right over you. Post as frequently as your audience wants (i.e., don't be a pest) and only with thoughts that will garner their interest.
• Offer videos, tutorials and podcasts in real time. Instead of making channel partners come to you for training, education and ideas, post podcasts, webinars, white papers and more to your social networking pages or tweet links to important information, where channel partners can digest and absorb on their own time, then respond back to you in a community-type forum with questions and suggestions. Talk about viral!

Social networking does have an addictive nature to it. You must develop a strategy and plan to harnesses that emotion into something powerful and productive for your channel partners. In doing so, you will find a virtual gateway to incredible collaboration and communications that will only benefit everyone.

Source by Michelle Kabele

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