Michael Gerentine, IBM Global VP Channel Marketing
By Mark Cox
IBM has made two innovations in the social media training it offers partners, enhancing the Social Media Boot Camps it created two years ago, and taking the Selling with Social Insights tool on its PartnerWorld website live. IBM is also publicizing that the IBM Think Academy instructional videos with senior executives it began to create last year for internal use has been opened up to partners.
“IBM is in transformation mode, changing both the company and its channel to adjust to new market dynamics, and as part of this shift we have developed a range of advanced learning programs,” said Michael Gerentine, IBM Global VP Channel Marketing.
The Social Media Boot Camps, which IBM first introduced two years ago, and are free to use, have become very popular. The Guided Social Media Boot Camp training program is available to all partners, while the Hosted version, which offers a personal advisor, is for Premier partners and MSPs.
“Many smaller organizations are socially savvy, and our partner community needed to be more educated on being digitally savvy,” said Heidi Dethloff, Vice President of IBM’s Global Midmarket Marketing. “We designed this to build their own social authority, and since it was created, 3367 partners have graduated from the Social Media Bootcamp, 263 of them in Canada. The eight week course lets them understand social media performance, helps develop skills, and lets them reach out in a more targeted way to prospects.”
Now the training in the Boot Camp program is being expanded.
“This year, we decided to create some advanced courses, as well as customized 1 on 1 workshops on topics like more advanced social media, blogging basics, using social media for lead generation, and mobile social media.”
Dethloff said that partners have to go through the original Boot Camp program in order to do these more advanced courses.
“These go beyond just the doors of marketing,” she said “We have presidents of firms who take advantage of the program.”
The second social media offering for partners, Selling with Social Insights, is a tool for partners on the PartnerWorld site. It was piloted last year and went live this quarter.
“It is a very intelligent analytics platform which scans social media sources and isolates trends,” Gerentine said. “It is able to take this content and display it on a tool on the PartnerWorld sales site so it can be useful for sales reps. The reps can see these trends to get a buzz of what’s going on in the market.”
While the Boot Camps are not a prerequisite to use Selling With Social Insights, and all PartnerWorld members have access to it, Gerentine said the camps may make partners more comfortable with what’s going on.
“The pilot involved several hundred partners in the U.S. only, and the tool’s usability has been enhanced since the pilot,” he added. “The tool is very powerful and some of the partners didn’t know what to do with it.”
The other new educational tool for partners is the availability of Think Academy, a videotaped learning series with senior executives IBM began last year for internal use.
“The platform has now been externalized to partners,” Gerentine said. “It is mostly multi-media, and has a mobile and social aspect to it. It has become very successful because the content is very rich.” It consists of 12-14 minute segments, which range from senior sales executives talking about value propositions, marketing opportunities and what to say to clients, to deeper examinations of products.
Think Academy went live to partners this year, and so far there have been over 11,000 unique page views by partners. It is available online, in eleven languages, with a new module being rolled out every month.