Industry Stalwarts Cisco, IBM Lead Social Media Charge with Customers, Partners

Vendors use a wide variety of social media to push information to customers and partners, urge resellers to adopt new tools. Next week, IBM will offer a session on leveraging social media tools at Information on Demand conference in Las Vegas, NV.

October 20, 2010

D.H. Kass

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Keith Goodwin, Cisco System Inc.’s senior vice president, worldwide channels, said, in a recent IT ChannelPlanet interview, that Cisco is “leading the way with partners on the use of social media. We are leading the charge using social media from a marketing standpoint."

He has a point. Early on, Cisco was out in front of its rivals with a channels blog and also has tagged a number of social media tools onto its Partner Velocity marketing program. Moreover, it foresaw the explosive nature of video—and incorporated it into its channel communications—before many others.

Cisco divvies up responsibilities for social media communications—its marketing team uses the tools to reach customers and channel partners while the communications team reaches out to the media, industry analysts and other influencers.

John Earnhardt, Cisco’s director of social media communications, who manages Cisco’s social media, including its news site, corporate blog and its pages on Facebook, Twitter and other vehicles to reach the media and analysts, recently offered a timeline of the vendor’s forays with social media, commencing in 2000 when it opened a news@cisco web site to house press information and some internally-generated original content.

In a blog entry, Earnhardt detailed five additional milestones marking Cisco’s ascent with social media, starting in 2005 when it launched its first external blog, continuing in 2007 when it started using video for press releases and blogs and opened a YouTube channel.

More recently, the vendor initiated a Twitter account in 2008, and in 2009 it opened a Facebook page and Ustream real-time video site with online video broadcast featuring Cisco executives answering questions submitted by viewers. This month, the company created a site called Social@Cisco in which it aggregates its social media footprint including highlights from its discussion communities.

IBM pours resources into social media

Cisco is not alone in devoting more resources to using social media tools to push material out to a variety of recipients and to communicate with channel partners.

IBM is right there, too, and, in some regards, has done more to promote the utility of social media tools to channel partners.

Late last summer, IBM initiated an initiative to help its channel partners build skills necessary to use social media to help promote their growth.

The effort includes training sessions, a social media guide offered at IBM’s PartnerWorld website, and a webcast and podcast series on Web 2.0 social media opportunities.

Next week, the vendor will hold a live session on leveraging social media at its Information on Demand conference in Las Vegas, NV.

IBM based its plan of attack on an internally-generated study of 1,000 of its business partners worldwide that indicated 45 percent were dabbling with social media to create new revenue opportunities but 75 percent didn’t know how to effectively apply it as a sales tool.

Of those partners currently using social media tools, 80 percent are accessing LinkedIn, a business-to-business social community, 68 percent have some contact with Facebook, 77 percent are using YouTube, mostly for education purposes, and 50 percent have exposure to Twitter, according to Sandy Carter, IBM vice president, Software Business Partners.

Partners uncertain about social media nonetheless expressed to IBM that they wanted training to help them use tools such as Twitter, RSS, Facebook, communities, wikis, videos and other mechanisms for business purposes, she said.

Carter, in an IT ChannelPlanet interview, said that in her position, she has spoken with more than 750 IBM channel partners, and “all are interested in expanding the reach of social media” in their businesses.

Of note, in an earlier IBM study of chief operating officers (CIO), 43 percent of those respondents said that they were experimenting with social media, so IBM has reason to believe that the training ground is a fertile one.

Carter said that a significant advantage to partners of using social media tools is the variety of information opportunities it brings to customers.

“With social media, you have multiple entry points and people trust multiple sources of information,” she said.

Carter said that IBM is urging channel partners to leverage the social media tools it has to offer and experiment with how best to deploy them.

She suggested that in the next year perhaps half of IBM’s channel partners will try out social media tools but that, in time, use of the tools will skyrocket.

“Partners from smaller companies are using social media at a higher rate than large channel partners, but that will change in time,” she said.

TAGS: IBM,social media,Cisco,partner,channel

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