IBM Bolsters Social Media For SMBs - InformationWeek

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IBM Bolsters Social Media For SMBs

Training launched to help companies weed through the options, understand how to use online networks as sales tools.

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Like many of their small and midsize clients, a number of IBM business partners are interested in the possibilities of social media as a way to increase revenue -- yet the overwhelming majority are uncertain how to use the technology as an effective sales tool, a new survey by IBM found.

In fact, 45% of the 1,000 business partners polled are experimenting with social media, according to the 2010 IBM Business Partner Social Media Survey, released Thursday. But 74% want education on social computing, with many saying they are overwhelmed by the number of social media outlets available. These business partners, many of which are small and midsize businesses, are seeking training on specific tools such as Facebook, Twitter, RSS, wikis, videos, and setting up private networking communities to communicate with customers and partners, IBM said.

Small and midsize businesses are struggling in the face of so many options, Sandy Carter, vice president, IBM Software Business Partners, told InformationWeek.

To help business partners create their own social media strategies -- and, in some cases, create a practice to help clients tackle the same challenge -- IBM today is launching social media initiatives, she said. Partners can access training sessions and a social media guide via the vendor's PartnerWorld website, and tap the company's webcast and podcast series on Web 2.0 social media opportunities and successful strategy implementations. IBM also will hold a live session on leveraging social media during its October Information on Demand Conference in Las Vegas, and will provide partners with virtual and in-person workshops through its IBM Virtual Innovation Center and 40 worldwide IBM Innovation Centers.

Perhaps the most important step is to develop a social media plan, said Carter. In addition to addressing the social media outlets to target, this also should include a "digital disaster plan" to cover negative comments and related issues, she said.

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