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Branding Key to Social Media Marketing Success

LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Alerts, Search Engine Optimization and Facebook. No matter what you call it or how you use it, you cannot deny that social media marketing is here to stay. More and more business-to-business organizations are seeing its value and figuring out how to use social media marketing within their current outreach plans.

While IT and telecom vendors are using social media marketing to retain and attract customers, very few VARs, solution providers and systems integrators are using these tools. Of those who are using it, how many are seeing the benefit of a well-executed presence? While social media tactics are considered “free,” companies can do more damage using the tools as another venue for push marketing than if they did nothing at all.

Some vendors look at the lack of usage as an indication they simply do not have to communicate with partners using these tools. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. While many solution providers have yet to embrace social media, almost all customers have. A post on the Marketing Pilgrim highlights a study showing that 91 percent of IT decision makers consume social media such as blogs, videos and peer reviews before making a purchasing decision. More than that, closer to 100 percent of customers use search engines to find pricing even if their product needs have been defined offline. Without SEO tactics, solution providers are missing some great opportunities. Bottom line, there is a huge disconnect between customers who seek information on social media platforms and partners who aren’t equipped to create it.

So what should solution providers do? The first step is creating an online brand. Those of us who have worked for large companies know “branding” can sometimes come with a 462-page “Branding Guidelines” document that’s good for learning how much space needs to be around a logo when printed in a presentation or how the product lines need to be discussed. Now more than ever, though, we’ve grown to understand branding as a series of experiences that people have with your company, its suppliers and customers. Here are four quick tips to get off to the right start developing your online brand:

  1. Make your name original. Growing up, I had a very long, rare last name. While it was a mouthful, it was original. If you searched Google for my full name, everything that came up was about me. Now if you search for Heather Margolis, you may get a couple of relevant links, but mostly it’s 30 strangers and the most downloaded woman of 2003, Cindy Margolis (no relation). To better differentiate myself online, I always, always use my middle initial: Heather K. Margolis is how you will find me all over the Web.
  2. Consistency is key. Use your name and company name the same way everywhere. This not only maintains the integrity of your company or personal branding, it also makes you easier to find. Solution providers don’t have the luxury of being as well-known as IBM, HP or EMC, so acronyms can be more confusing than beneficial. It is also very important that if you decide to use an acronym, it’s not highly relevant to something else. If you’re IBM nothing is getting in your way in a search, but good luck going with CA and competing with California in search rank.
  3. Control the buzz. Are people talking about you? Chances are, if you’re putting your brand or your name out there to be noticed, they are. It’s important that you know what they are saying and where, so you can either thank them and comment or engage in a discussion over a criticism or misunderstanding. Google alerts notify you as soon as something is posted. I have alerts set up for Channel Maven, Channel Maven Consulting, Heather K. Margolis, Heather Margolis and a bunch of my clients. This way I know what is being said and can respond immediately.
  4. Ambiguity doesn’t work on the Web. When people see your Web site, your LinkedIn profile, your Twitter account, they need to know in three seconds or less what value you are going to provide to them and a way to act on it. Using terms like “best-in-class” and “solution-driven” don’t tell people how you’re going to help solve their pain point. Tell them what you do, tell them why you’re better and tell them how it’s going to change their lives.

This is just the tip of the iceberg and, I hope, a good start to getting ready for your first social media marketing initiatives.

Looking for More?
Heather K. Margolis will be sharing more insights on social media marketing at the Spring 2010 Channel Partners Conference & Expo, March 1-3, in Las Vegas.

Heather K. Margolis is an entrepreneur and founder of Channel Maven Consulting. She can be reached at heather@channelmavenconsulting.com.


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