I am frequently asked by Cisco partners about the value of social media, how they should get started, what other partners are doing, if those efforts have been successful, and many other questions too numerous to list here. Many of these questions have been the inspiration for previous posts on this blog. Because I know you, Cisco partners, have a strong interest in social media as part of your marketing efforts, I am always on the look out for relevant information that I can share with you. Imagine my elation when I received the July issue of CRN and found an article entitled “Are You A Social Climber?” by Brian Kraemer. The subtitle is the clincher -- “Vendors, VARs find engaging with customers via today’s social networks is paying dividends in ways they never expected”.And yes… I’m so happy to see an article about social media in a solution provider focused publication that I’ve been carrying this issue of CRN around with me ever since. Here are the points that I think are most salient and interesting. If you have time you may want to read the entire article. • Social media is growing in popularity and it is making its way into the channel…. Solution providers that don’t start paying attention to the new ways to engage and interact with customers may get left behind. • While some solution providers might think that social media is for young people, The Nielsen Company provides numbers that contradict that notion. Nielsen found that nearly 42% of Twitter’s audience is comprised of the 25 to 49 year old demographic. That means, in many cases, your customers are using social media. Solution providers that are quick to adopt a social networking strategy are likely to find a receptive and large audience…Most compelling are examples for solution providers on how they are using social media.• Netarx Inc. has been using Twitter as a form of marketing outreach, a slight deviation from their original strategy to leverage Twitter for lead generation. No sales emerged and Netarx decided to develop a specific voice for their Twitter feed focusing on the specific service and technology areas in which the company is working… Although, there is no business to show for it yet, Netarx is finding that the dialogue is starting. This is one of the critical benefits of social networks: the ability to listen to conversations as they happen in real time. Kevin Carpenter from Netarx summed it up well; “I tweet because there is a conversation going on out there. And if we’re not in the conversation, then we can’t be a part of it. Ultimately, customers need me to focus on how to impact their business today. Twitter allows me to have a voice in that space”. • World Wide Technology regularly reads corporate blogs, like Cisco’s, and follows Twitter feeds from key vendor executives in an effort to stay abreast of what’s top of mind for them. Doing this allows World Wide Technology to differentiate themselves and promote their capabilities to vendor executives in a way that addresses what is important to the executive. • There is also mention of leveraging vendor Facebook and LinkedIn groups as a forum to mine for ideas, customers and friend who work in the same field. But where does social media rank in terms of preferred marketing tactics? Take a look at the chart below from MarketingSherpa. With 97% of those surveyed indicating that social media will complement other tactics such as email and search and 88% agreeing that social media will become a standard marketing tactic, social media has rapidly evolved to become a member of an elite trio of interactive marketing tactics -- Email, Search and Social. What do you think? Is it time for you to develop your social media strategy?