It's been a relevant question for solution providers ever since Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn became part of the cultural lexicon: How best to embrace social networking for business use?
The debate rages but in the past two years several vendors have piloted social networking-flavored programs for their channel partners, hoping to help them effectively navigate the platforms and experiment with how to drive business outcomes.
Avaya is one of the more recent vendors to take up the mantle. Earlier this spring it launched Social Media Blitz, a program designed to help Avaya partners onboard themselves with social media and leverage social networking communications on their own.
When a partner signs up, he or she is given a login and access to the Avaya Social Port, an aggregator dashboard that allows the partner to access a library of Avaya-flavored content, select a social media platform (either Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn) and push the content out using those platforms. Partners can adjust the content depending on the audience they're trying to reach or the message they're trying to promote.
The Social Port also offers a library of small and medium enterprise (SME) content, an archive of training sessions that teach the partner how to use the Social Port and understand some social media basics, and receive training and education materials via Avaya's Social Media Blitz Resource portal.
"This is for the partners that don't have the bandwidth or time to put a formal social media practice together," said Piper Hyman, senior marketing manager, SME, for Avaya. "What we've heard from partners in the past is that they don't have the content and they don't have the resources."
The program will be free for Avaya partners until June. After that, it will be folded into Avaya MarketLeaders, the vendor's online marketing resource portal. Market Leaders is a paid program, but partners can use Avaya's co-op marketing funds to join it and they'll able to use their own Social Port aggregator for a small hosting fee paid to Avaya.
The program was piloted for SME-facing Avaya solution providers but is now available for all U.S.-based Avaya partners, as well as in EMEA, Canada and several Caribbean markets.
Of the hundreds of Avaya partners Hyman's team polled, about 50 percent weren't using social media for business at all, she said, and many weren't using it personally, either. That meant taking a fundamental approach to building the Social Port, which went live on March 23.
Hyman and Patti Moran, worldwide director of channels marketing, said that rather than merely do partners' social media for them using a template, it was more important to teach them "to fish" -- that is, get comfortable enough with regular social media use for business that they were comfortable building on the Avaya tools provided.
"It's not Avaya telling them what to do, it's incorporating social media into their business," said Moran.
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