Social media communications within the channel is no “panacea”
Cost cutting vendors are at risk of “losing their audience” with channel partners due to an over-reliance on social media as a means of communicating.
Social media has offered an easy way for interaction between companies operating in the channel, as well as offering a way for channel firms to promote themselves to customers.
However research by the Channel Partnership has shown that very few channel companies have taken well to social media as a means of communicating with vendors – with only ten percent rating this as an effective means of communication.
53 percent however said that one to one meetings were one of the most effective means of communicating, rather than Facebook or Twitter.
According to Phil Brown, director of The Channel Partnership, vendors need to rethink social media channel communication strategies, or risk alienating reseller partners.
“Some of the feedback has been that taking away or cutting back on traditional methods and hoping that social media is going not to fill the gap, that is not always going to work for resellers.
“They are always going to want that structured, regular communication, the face to face meetings.
“The risk is lack of engagement, you are going to lose your audience.”
While social networking offers many benefits in terms of ease of communication, Brown says that many are still coming to terms with best practice.
Dell has been one of the firms which received negative feedback from its channel over its use of social media, but it is far from the only one according to Brown.
“Most vendors are in trial and error mode, finding out where it does work and doesn’t”, he told ChannelBiz. “Inevitably this means that people are making mistakes.
“I don’t think anybody would say they have the complete answer yet and have a solid social media plan in place and have integrated with the rest of what they are doing in the channel.
“My personal impression is that people are still trying things and seeing what will work. It will take another year before vendors work out where it does have a role and where they should be using the more traditional communications methods.
“We are going through a cycle, a new tool appears, which is what social media is,” he says.
“People are working out how to use it, at times there is a temptation to see it as a bit of a panacea. It is not. It has value but it is one of the tools vendors should be looking to use.”
Brown says that part of the reason for the increased use of social media is a desire to seem up to date and ahead of the curve with new tools. However it is also seen as a cost cutting tool.
This is not in itself a bad thing, however, by using social media in the wrong way to reduce investment in the channel could come back to bite vendors.
“If the main way of getting through to a vendor is on Twitter, that is putting a lot of onus on you as a sales person to filter through all the information and work out what is relevant.
“If vendors are over relying on this then vendors might not get the message across in the way that they want , and the channel will become disengaged.
“If the overriding driver is lets do this because we can cut out some costs, then vendors need to very careful because in the long run it is going to cost them a whole lot more, because they will lose the engagement of their partners.
“That’s not to say it can’t be used in a smart way, but it needs to be done very very carefully.”