IBM’s social media expert Sandy Carter shares her tips and common pitfalls to avoid

Get started in social media in three easy steps

IT channel partners and small businesses stand to gain a lot from leveraging social media tools to further build their brands and thought leadership in the market, said social media expert Sandy Carter.

Besides being a social media evangelist, Carter is also IBM Corp.‘s (NYSE: IBM) vice-president of software business partners and mid-market and is the author of two books, The New Language of Business SOA & 2.0 and The New Language of Marketing 2.0: How to Use ANGELS to Energize Your Market.

On Twitter, Carter has 11,284 followers and growing and on LinkedIn, she has more than 500 connections.

According to IBM Business Partner Social Media survey conducted this year surveying 1,000 IBM partners worldwide, the company found that while 45 per cent of partners are experimenting with a social media business strategy to generate new revenue streams, 74 per cent of them are seeking education on social computing.

CDN Now had the opportunity to speak with Carter to hear her tips on how to get started in social media and how partners can leverage it to be more successful.

CDN Now: Why is social media important for business?

Sandy Carter: The trend that we’ve seen in the marketplace so far is that ecosystems outside of your four walls are critical for your success in the market place. Here, you can seek advice, understand more about branding, crowd-sourcing and more. For a partner, which is typically a small business, leveraging social media tools and the power of this ecosystem enables them to build up their brand and have conversations they may not have been able to have in the past. Social media can be a powerful form of marketing and it’s also a way to incorporate customer input into your brand.

CDN Now: From your experience, how comfortable are partners with social media?

S.C.: Some of our larger partners do really well with social media tools such as YouTube and blogs. I’d say the rest of them are really novices, but they’re starting to use social media by creating a Facebook page or a LinkedIn group.

CDN Now: How can partners get started?

S.C.: If you’re an IBM partner, the best place to start is with our online curriculum for social media. Here, we teach you things like how to get started with Twitter and Facebook. Also at our six major conferences a year, we have in-person social media training as well.

For non-IBM partners, I’d advise to get set up with a simple social tool first such as with TweetDeck and Google Alerts. Then, I’d figure out what’s being said about my category area and listen to what’s being said in the market place. Select the words you care about and find out what’s being said about you. Is there enough activity and things going on that you’d like to get involved in? There are also thousands of courses online that teach you how to do this, mostly for pay, but some are free. Once you create an account, experiment and figure out what your goals are. If you want to use social media to educate the market place, think about where the people you’re interested in hang out. Are the people you want to reach on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or LinkedIn?

CDN Now: How can you be sure to attract the right followers on Twitter?

S.C.: Every business is different, but if I’m a small business and I do business in the North East, I’d look for followers in the North East area by taking my e-mail lists and seeing how many of these people have a Twitter account. If you’re interested in an industry like retail, listen to the key words such as “gift registry” which is a hot one right now.

CDN Now: What are the common mistakes and how can you avoid them?

S.C.: There are three things: 1) Not listening and just doing it without having a goal. Don’t sign up for Facebook just because “everyone” is on there, 2) Having a one-way conversation. Create a two-way conversation by having a dialogue and adding value and expertise. 3) Starting and then quitting right away. Put content out there instead and keep up with it. A lot of small companies are trying to establish themselves, so become an expert in a particular area and then focus on what your brand can bring thru social media.

CDN Now: What’s IBM doing to help partners in the social media sphere?

S.C.: We have virtual events where partners can run virtual events for their customers, and we have online education and in-person training. We also offer planning sessions and business development days, e-books and co-marketing offerings.

Follow Maxine Cheung on Twitter: @MaxineCheungCDN.

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