If you want to become an influencer within the Microsoft ecosystem—which consists of over 600,000 members—you will really have to work hard. The good news is that it does not matter how big or small you are as a company, because social media is about individuals. I do not believe in centralized social media functions, where somebody is just paid to do social media without passion. To get yourself recognized in a given ecosystem, you have to build a strategy. In my case, that strategy has been based on physical presence followed up with virtual collaboration, using social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. I also founded a special interest group with a social media and networking site—ISVcommunity.com—that enables software enthusiasts to collaborate, get to know each other, and discuss shared interests across physical borders.
Focus on the Right Ecosystem
When I started my career in the IT/software industry, a network consisted mainly of the people you met at conferences and other physical events. Another way to make your presence known was to write articles in professional magazines and participate as a speaker at various industry events. Today, with careful planning, your presence and skillset can become known, not only on a local level, but on a global level as well. What you have to do though is focus your energy on the ecosystem that makes the most sense for you as an individual. My personal ecosystem used to be IBM, but I made a change 7 years ago while dedicating my time to learning Microsoft, inside and out. Today, 100% of our revenue comes from the Microsoft ecosystem, and through a conscious decision, Microsoft became the focal point of our activities. That decision has paid off—through hard work and continued focus.
Leadership leads to Relationships
I have to admit that I have had an advantage compared with many others, having been in multiple leadership roles within the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners. IAMCP is known to facilitate partner-to-partner networking, and when you combine this with a genuine interest in learning about different cultures, companies, and people, you have a winning formula—as long as you have the patience to maintain your presence in the ecosystem. Today, with the help of IAMCP and my own connections, I can get access to resources worldwide if I have questions about anything relating to Microsoft ecosystem business. With the relationships I have built through the years with Microsoft partners and Microsoft personnel, the opportunities to do profitable business are far greater than if I was trying to figure out the best route for success on my own.
Getting connected to decision-makers at vendor organizations such as Microsoft will also require you to treat these connections with some sensitivity. If your approach is to “use and abuse” your connections, you will pretty quickly become regarded as a spammer, and the person you were connected with will exclude you from their network. You must build your digital social network like you build your physical network. There are no shortcuts or easy ways to do it, and my 2500 connections on LinkedIn and 1000 on Facebook have taken me years to build. That network is my own intellectual property that I nurture like the asset it truly is. Once you start thinking this way about your network and your Microsoft ecosystem connections, you will eventually realize that your value to the network is what the network thinks about you and your actions.
I will never forget the time an entrepreneur from California explained to me that his most important asset was his customer/prospect database, which he nurtured and maintained on a daily basis. As a young sales professional at the time, it did not fully sink in for me. But later on when I started my current company, I remembered what he said, and that has become the basis for my own thinking when building my network and the value that I try to bring to it.