When we talk about a "community" of partners and how we want them to market with us, we need to understand that community and marketing go hand-in-hand. A breadth partner community, by definition is a 1:many relationship. These partners don't have the unique, personal relationships on a 1:1 level that a Depth partner might have with a field-based Partner Account Manager.
The first point about Community is that it centers on what the British blogger, Hugh MacLeod, calls “the social object.”
The point is that communities don’t just happen.
They aren’t just networks of people.
They are all centered around some THING.
That thing can be anything. A church, a healthclub, your kids’ school, a soccer team…whatever. So, to build community, we need to have a Social Object around which it is worthwhile for people to congregate.
And we are already starting to do that, which excites me.
So, that’s great, but how do you create a social object?
Well, scenario #1 is to just have a sexy, rock star product. iPod, Halo 3, Harley Davidson.
And scenario #2 (the bulk of products), when the product isn’t sexy requires something else. MacLeod’s answer is that it is social gestures. It is HOW we choose to talk to, and more importantly, with people.
As MacLeod says:
My standard answer to that is, "Social Gestures beget Social Objects.“
"Own the conversation by improving the conversation."
The first question you should REALLY ask yourself is:
"How do I want to change the way I talk to people?"
And the way is AUTHENTIC. This is where the paradigm shift occurs.
Era of sanitized communications “cleansed” by pr or marketing communications is over because people see through the BS. After all, YOU see through it!
It’s a Billion channel universe and the Attention economy is in full swing.
This part is scary for Microsoft. It's scary for any large company.
It requires a bit of a “leap of faith” in terms of who controls the message because, in some part, no one does and in many parts, it is not us. We have to accept it because it’s reality whether we like it or not. As my old boss said, “what you resist, persists”
And we are doing all of this to generate real conversations with the members of our community.
If you think about it, what is the hallmark of Web 2.0? It’s UGC [user-generated content].
Even if people choose not to participate, they know they have the OPTION to do so.
It’s going to take time. It’s going to take a change in how we think about how we communicate and our partners are not going to jump on it immediately, but we have to keep at it.
So, from the Community side of the house, we want to make the through-partner breadth marketing engine a social object that is WORTHWHILE for our partners to network around.
And we are going to do that through authentic media that facilitate 2 way conversations.