The evolving channels that buyers use to research purchase decisions have left many marketers struggling to keep up. Social media, in particular, has grown into more than just an outlet for outbound initiatives, but an effective demand generation tool vendors and channel partners can use to enhance their daily routines.
In an interview with Channel Marketer Report, Kaspersky Lab North America’s VP of B2B Marketing Jon Whitlock discusses how the company has been leveraging social media within its partner network to increase opportunities and enhance the conversations partners are having with prospective buyers.
Channel Marketer Report: Why do you believe social media has become such a key channel for B2B and channel organizations?
Jon Whitlock: The ability to follow and respond to the latest news, industry updates, trends and more helps people stay on top of what matters most to them. It’s also a fantastic real-time way to stay on top of what customers, your channel and competitors are saying so we can adapt and make sure that we know what is going on in the space, what our take is and how we can participate in what the industry is talking about. We can also shape conversations around security, especially when we release a threat research announcement.
CMR: How can social media help improve communication, collaboration and engagement between vendors and channel partners, as well as vendors/partners with customers/prospects?
Whitlock: Partnerships take nurturing and building of trust, along with a great deal of conversations. When we look at social media, it offers an opportunity for us and our partners to share important information with prospects and existing customers. We produce a lot of valuable content that we share with partners via our portal that they share with their networks. This is a real win-win for everyone involved. The prospects see great information, the Kaspersky Lab brand and expertise get shared, and partners do not have to invest in researching and creating this content on their own. The sharing also keeps their business top of mind in our space when people are searching for news in the security space.
CMR: What are the most common challenges/pain points when it comes to driving social sharing and communication across the channel?
Whitlock: We position this to partners as a value-add to their clientele and that they can get industry news to share without having to do research, invest in content production or verify whether the source is a true expert. We also try to avoid being overly promotional and avoid the marketing speak that would hurt the authenticity. Our team partners closely with our social media team to get the right stories along with the right wording and hashtags to offer the partner the best success at getting the information out there. We are doing all the hard work and putting the partner in the position to succeed.
CMR: How can vendors determine the most impactful social networks and the most effective content to share across different networks?
Whitlock: The beauty of social media is that everyone has a network that works best for them. What we do is to create write-ups and images for each network. So if the partner loves LinkedIn, they can share the article with copy and images that fit LinkedIn’s size requirements. The same holds true for Facebook and Twitter. Our company puts out a lot of content each day — usually a minimum of five posts — so partners have a lot to choose from. We partner closely with our social media team and they will often let us know if a certain article or tweak to wording could make something more likely to engage with a social audience.
CMR: Do you provide any educational/training resources to win partner buy-in when it comes to social sharing and engagement?
Whitlock: Our portal is very straightforward and walks our partners through what and how things will be shared. As with any tool, there is always room for improvement and we regularly chat with partners to see what is going well for them and what is not. We also give feedback to our internal partners if we hear things like the content is not working or we need more relevant pieces on certain topics.
CMR: If you had one piece of advice for both vendors and partners regarding social media, what would it be?
Whitlock: Have the conversation — find that symbiotic relationship. Everyone in the partnership is in it together – how can we all be successful together. Social media is a touch point that marketers can’t ignore, it is omnipresent so if it gets ignored, you will too. Like it or not, people look at your Facebook or Twitter when researching vendors. Are you relevant in the space? Are you sharing trends, news and updates? If you answered no to either of those questions, you may have just lost your sale.
CMR: Can you share any recent social media success stories that would help the executives reading this piece?
Whitlock: Something that we have started to see success with is leveraging our social media channels for lead generation in the B2B space. While this is still a growing partnership, it is something that we see as an avenue to drive leads without having to go out and aggressively buy or target lists for. It could be something that helps us over the long haul in attracting passive potential customers. And helping our partners continue to take advantage of these successes through our partner social media syndication program is something that is definitely in the plans as well.