The VAR Guy Blog

Easy Ways to Expand Your Influence with Social Media

Let’s face it, social media is starting to play an important role in the corporate world, and having a social media presence is now essential for every successful business.

Are you still resisting the need to participate in “Web 2.0”? Examples of Web 2.0 becoming more and more relevant in business today include social networking sites, blogs, wikis and video-sharing sites. Consider just 10 to 15 years ago many businesses felt it was unnecessary to create a company website, and how did that work out for them? Social media is now evolving along a similar adoption curve, and you can’t afford to be left behind.

To be clear, I’m not advocating posting or Tweeting status updates when you move from your front door to your car, “checking-in” at your office every morning or becoming the “Mayor” of someplace according to Foursquare. That’s the equivalent of spam in social media, and most people find it rather annoying. However, appropriate use can earn you and your brand widespread credibility in your industry. And ultimately, it can bring you more customers (everyone likes a good thinker).

But before you post a picture or tag yourself around town, you have to identify the sites that will help you maximize your brand potential. If you’re struggling to do so, there are some excellent consulting firms around that can help you in this area. Two companies that know the IT services space particularly well are Stuart Selbst Consulting and Ulistic. Both have deep expertise in marketing and business development, and both have a strong record of helping companies grow their revenue and strengthen their brand.

You personally don’t have to be all over every site. For example, I don’t Tweet (yes, a shocker, I know), but Axcient does as a company, and I’m all for it. I find that LinkedIn is the most useful to me, so I’ll stick with what I know and share what I’ve learned about building and sustaining a LinkedIn presence.

The No. 1 rule on all social media sites is to stay away from sales pitches unless there’s a natural transition to one. Flooding the social scene with sales pitches is almost as annoying as those pointless “check-ins.” The best way to earn social media credibility is to offer thoughtful, useful information while communicating with partners and customers in a friendly fashion.

One example I can share is a series of blogs that I posted about several aspects of sales compensation plans and incentive strategies for cloud-based service providers and SMB end users. No sales pitch included, just information to help these companies maximize their value. Blogs are a great way to share your knowledge, and social media sites give you the platform to promote them. Another well-known industry consultant who comes to mind is Steve Noel. He is a prolific blogger, and he provides a great example of how social media can springboard your influence. Why does his name come to mind? I see it every day on various LinkedIn groups, as do thousands of other people.

I don’t claim to be the most prolific blogger, but I frequently post links to my blog on my LinkedIn profile and on various LinkedIn groups to start a conversation. Companies search through these groups for business-related answers, and I try to help with what I know. This approach requires active participation on the site. Monitor the conversation. Ask questions. Respond to comments. Pose alternative solutions and new ideas. Quality information is more important that volume. Really think before hitting “Post.” One piece of bad advice can kill your credibility. Give useful information, check your facts, and then check them again.

Over time, people will want to know who you are. And that curiosity will lead them straight to your profile. Make sure it’s sharp and appealing. Get as many industry keywords in there as possible, and pay attention to the people who are viewing your profile. Doing so will help you gauge whether you’re attracting the intended audience. Are they in your industry? Are they current customers? Potential customers? The free version of LinkedIn will give you general information about who sees your profile. If you want more specifics, like I do, opt for the Pro version. It gives you more InMail opportunities and more specifics on who is viewing your profile.

No matter which social media site you use, it’s always about building a presence and giving refreshing, quality content. You’re not directly selling by giving information, but people like to buy from those they trust. Think of it as planting a seed. And when they’re ready to buy, you’ll be on their mind.

Chris Sterbenc is VP of sales at Axcient, which works closely with MSPs and VARs. Monthly guest blogs such as this one are part of The VAR Guy’s annual platinum sponsorship. Read all of Axient’s guest blogs here.




Discuss this Blog Entry 3

Craig Sharp (not verified)
on Jun 15, 2012
Great post Chris and I agree 100%. Social Media should be seen as friend, not foe ( Blogs are a great way to start, but as time moves on and you develop a lot of original content then Twitter becomes a great way of getting that content seen by a wider audience. From here you can begin to create a Facebook page if you think that's the right demographic, but in essence its about getting your business 'socialized' ( so you reach as wide an audience as possible The key thing is to get out there and start using Social Media. You might make social media mistakes ( but better to be doing something than nothing
on Jun 15, 2012
Thanks Chris for the mention. Social Media is a great tool when used properly. I love the spin on Business Development. I see the use of social media more as a corporate communications tool versus a marketing tool. It has marketing merit but when engaged properly throughout the organization, Social Media services can serve a wide range of services. For example, why not have the tech teams tweet the latest tech tip and have your sales professionals talk about how business can become efficient with the use of IT. Maybe the CEO looks at business process improvement as an example. Lots of great ways social media can help. But you need a plan. This is where Ulistic's MSP Coaching services can help. After all, our team ran a $5M VAR and MSP for 8 years. We must have done something right :-) Cheers Stuart Crawford ULISTIC 416.827.5339
on Jun 19, 2012
The VAR Guy has a much more basic piece of advice. Create an offline journal of your IT thoughts and business observations. Update the journal once per week with for three months. At the end of three months, read those 12 journal entries. Are they compelling? Intriguing? If so, you've got 12 blog entries ready to get you started. If you can't write a weekly entry for 12 weeks, you're not ready to launch a business blog on your website. -TVG
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