A blog series for U.S. partners by Jenni Flinders, Microsoft U.S. Vice President, Partner Strategy and Programs.
As a Microsoft partner, in a business where you’re meeting, interacting, and consulting with customers every day, you might say you’re a fairly social creature. That essential love for working with other people serves you well, but could you be even more social for the benefit of your business? If your business isn’t active on social media, then the answer is a resounding “Yes!”
No matter how powerful your offline engagement skills are, it’s critical to recognize that social media have become integral to both B2B and B2C decision-making processes, and are also an effective marketing channel for attracting and recruiting talent.
Positive social engagement between a customer and your business—which means your business not only pushes content “out there,” but that it actively participates in dialogue with customers—can impact customer satisfaction, loyalty, preference, referrals, and likelihood to purchase. Brand awareness through social sharing and search engine optimization (SEO) can influence a recruit’s perception of whether he or she would like to work for your firm. In past posts, I’ve talked about how collaboration with other partners is an effective way to build your business, and social media can help you form a deeper and broader network in that regard, too.
For all of these reasons, if you haven’t gone social in the online marketing sense, the time is now. To better understand how getting social is driving tangible benefits for businesses like yours, here are examples of how Microsoft partners Perficient, BitWizards, and Catapult use social media to drive results:
- New customer opportunities. Perficient has found that sharing stories on its blog is an especially high-impact way to engage with customers. More concise than case studies, Perficient’s blog posts have resulted in new customer opportunities, including a lead that responded to a post about a Perficient-designed health clinic SharePoint 2013 site with, “We can’t wait to do the same thing!” The firm has also used its blog to promote Microsoft Office 365, telling stories about successful deployments and highlighting how customer businesses were succeeding as a result. This approach not only serves as positive marketing for Perficient’s expertise, but builds loyalty and goodwill with featured customers.
- Heightened brand awareness. Because of its capacity for exponential reach, social media are ideal for broadening and elevating brand awareness. Catapult recognized this, and has launched numerous brand campaigns through social media over the past few years. Assigning creative branded names for Twitter and blog campaigns, like Systems Center Universe and My IT Forum, has helped generate attention with prospects, and encourages social sharing. Catapult has also carefully nurtured relationships within its social networks, serving to extend its brand awareness in major ways when active Twitter followers retweet and share Catapult information with their own networks.
- Employee engagement and development. With social media, BitWizards has been able to expand its marketing resources by harnessing the enthusiasm of its staff. The firm values employee development and makes a point of identifying free social training resources that staff can take advantage of. BitWizard employees have a high level of excitement and engagement around social media, something that bodes well for their satisfaction, plus benefits the company. Employees, active on Twitter and Facebook on behalf of the company, love that they can connect with people from all corners of the globe to brainstorm on IT solutions, and this has fostered incredible confidence in the staff’s ability to solve challenging and unique problems. This then translates to more creative and prescriptive solutions for all of BitWizard’s customers.
In my conversations with partners, I’m hearing these channels are particularly effective: Twitter (for its simplicity); Facebook (for thought leadership); LinkedIn (for recruiting and networking); YouTube (for product demos and brand awareness); Slide Share (for SEO and thought leadership); and corporate blogs (for sharing of trends, corporate news and success stories).
Above all else, partners share that their ideas about using social media are strikingly similar in entrepreneurial spirit to my personal approach to business and professional growth. You just have to get out there and do it. Don’t worry about selecting the right tools as much as taking the first step to connect with your customers and peers. Experience will show you exactly what channels work well for your company and your customers.
I encourage you to get social with me, too, Follow me on Twitter @Jenni_Flinders and share how social has already changed your business relationships, or how you hope it will once you give it a try.