So our next SocialStar featured is Darren Bibby Program Director, Software Channels Research IDC.  Darren does phenomenal work on the partnering ecosystem and is a social media fan for the channel.

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1) Darren, tell me about IDC and your role there.

IDC  is an IT analyst and research firm with almost 1000 analysts worldwide. My specific domain within IDC is all about software partners.

Every day at IDC I think about how software vendors and their business partners (VARs, ISVs, regional SIs) work together to make money, essentially. My small team and I look at partner programs, industry announcements, key trends, and the like. I’m always looking for ideas. Big ideas and small ideas. Anything that can help vendors and partners get more out of working together.

Social media is certainly a topic that applies in terms of new ideas. Many vendors and partners are doing some great things. It’s also appealing to me on both a business and a personal level. If you’d like to hear more about my work at IDC, check out my bio.

2) How do you see social media impacting the ecosystem space?

It’s already happening. IT solution providers of all varieties are experimenting with social media to see what can work for them. Many are already building communities, creating YouTube channels, writing blogs, tweeting, and more.

A survey of partners we did last summer showed that LinkedIn for networking was the top-used social media site or tool, followed by LinkedIn Groups; and then reading blogs. Our survey showed that the social media sites or tools that were going to grow the most were: writing blogs at number one and Twitter at number two. I still think that 2010 will continue to be a year of experimentation with social media for most solution providers. Perhaps by this time next year, VARs and ISVs will start to settle on a few key tactics that they can show some ROI for.

For instance, some partners I’ve talked to said they’ve traded in their traditional marketing newsletter for a blog. The blog allows them to show more personality, show thought leadership, and get feedback from readers. Much better than a one way email newsletter. Other partners are focusing on pushing out their thought leadership through Twitter. Some are using company Twitter handles and some companies are opting for one or two individuals to make a name for themselves and represent the company to the public.

I love what Ascendant Technology is doing with its South Park videos on YouTube as Liz Albert was describing in a previous post. The videos are catchy it seems to be working for them with the Lotusphere 2009 video getting over 20,000 views!

There’s no one magic formula that works for every partner. Liz and Ascendant are showing that being unique and humorous is the key for them!

3) What are a few of the top lessons learned that you’d like to share with my readers?

a) If you’re new to social media, it’s probably best to watch and learn first before participating. Digital records of what you post can last a very long time! Start following people on Twitter to get a hang of it. Sign up to some relevant groups on LinkedIn. Take advantage of the endless guidance available out there. IBM’s social media guidelines would be a great place to start.

b) Come up with some kind of plan for your company on how to leverage social media as a part of the marketing mix. It should be a well thought-out strategy for using social media versus what the common everyday user does, which is more random in nature. If you’re going to replace your newsletter with a blog, how are you going to get content? Who are your writers? At what frequency of new content can you maintain? As much as partners in our survey wanted to start new blogs, my gut tells me that most don’t know how much work it takes to keep them up-to-date with fresh content.

c) Go for quality and not necessarily quantity with your social media contributions.

I came to a realization a long time ago that I wasn’t going to be able to read every tweet out there nor was I going to be able to publish 10 value-added or interesting tweets a day.

Now, many people can do this, but it doesn’t fit with my own availability or style. My plan with Twitter, as an example, is to tweet at events I go to and only really when I feel I have something valuable to say to “the community.”

Remember it is a community out there. Think of any big meetings you’ve been in – you generally think twice about whether or not your comment will add value to the meeting. Hold yourself to a similar value-added threshold for social media sites. Again, your digital record lasts for a long time.

d) Look for inspiration and ideas from social media posts. 

There is a lot of information out there.  Way too much.  Social media sites and tools can help to bring the cream to the top.  I have stumbled across some great ideas through Twitter, blogs, and LinkedIn groups to name a few.  For example, I was pointed to one specific “TED Talk” a couple of years ago through Twitter and now I often make it a lunchtime diversion to watch an interesting speech from one of the world’s top thinkers.  Thanks Twitter!

 4) Why do you think social media is important to partners and vendors alike?

Good or bad, I think there is a new playing field because of social media.  People want to know how you think.  Let me use a theoretical hiring example to explain what I mean. 

Old world:  Candidate A has a resume, but that is usually peppered with embellishments, “mostly truths,” etc..  We all know there is only so much you can take out of a resume and I don’t think many people hire based solely on that. Then there’s the job interview, which I’ve understood from HR science aren’t actually very useful at determining someone’s future performance.  And then thirdly there are often references.  Hand-picked references, of course…  Candidate A has all three things, like any old world candidate would. 

So what’s the new world?  Now I have heard that people are starting to ask, “Can I see your blog? Can I see your Twitter stream?”  What a good reference point for HR departments and hiring managers to learn about how someone thinks. It’s arguably far more useful than the traditional “resume, interview, references” package. Candidate B happens to have all three elements that Candidate A has, plus a blog and a Twitter stream.  It’s far easier to see how “B” thinks than “A.” 

This will be the same in business.  Before we work together, “Can I see your blog? Can I see your Twitter stream?”  I’m not sure how, “I don’t have either” is going to go over.