Back in May 2013, in PartnerPulse: An Angie's List for Microsoft Partner Selection, I introduced you to a new service designed to provide Microsoft Partners with a true, collaborative, community resource. Microsoft has attempted to provide community services for partners over the years, but seems to continually get stuck somewhere near completion. Their intentions seem good, but as suggested even yesterday, Microsoft is great with vision, just not so great with execution. I have a theory about why Microsoft's community services fail and I'll probably share that at a later date.
Over the past few months, I've had the chance to check-in with Chris Wright, the founder of PartnerPulse, periodically. With some fantastic new updates unveiled, I thought it was a great time to give you all an update on how PartnerPulse is doing and where it's headed.
Here's my recent interview with Chris:
WITP: Since I last looked at PartnerPulse, it looks like you’ve done some incredible things. The site has been updated and polished a bit and I see quite a few new companies in the listing. How many companies are participating in PartnerPulse now?
Chris: This timing is actually pretty good! We have just (like 2hrs ago) launched a brand new refresh, if you check out the site now you will see a brand new design, logo, and homepage. We've really honed what we have been trying to do, so hopefully you think the site is looking REALLY polished right now! We currently have around 2000 partners on the site, all through organic signups and word of mouth. We get new sign ups daily.
WITP: As I’m sure you’re aware, Microsoft unveiled Pinpoint a few years back, but it never really took off. Why do you think Pinpoint was not accepted by the partner community?
Chris: I think Pinpoint has been unlucky. When it launched a simple directory site was fine, but these days users (the partner community and people wanting to work with partners) expect more.
That said Pinpoint does a very good job, has a huge number of partners signed up, and gets tremendous traffic. I think maybe functionally it has stood still a little, whilst other areas of digital comms and marketing have moved on.
WITP: What does PartnerPulse offer that PinPoint does not, and how does it fix the perception problem that Pinpoint caused?
Chris: We don't see ourselves as a direct competitor to Pinpoint, we are trying to offer something different. Obviously being a source of partner info we are going to be compared but there are two very specific things PartnerPulse is trying to do:
1. Allow partners, clients, and potential customers to engage online.
Anyone can post to a partners activity feed, using what we call Pulses. We see partner profiles as interactive engaging places where conversations happen. A client might write a review, a partner might post some news, or a potential customer might ask a question.
Pulses can be text, images, ratings, links, even URLs (with previews). Very quickly a partners profile becomes a rich source of conversation.
2. Allow partners to surface all of their online activity automatically
With a few simple clicks a partner can connect their profile to other online and social sites. We can pull in tweets, blog post snippets, and even messages from Yammer. All this is done securely (only messages using special hashtags are pulled in) with little extra work by the user.
Not only are these a great way of quickly adding content to a profile and keeping it up to date, but it gives viewers of profiles a really nice overview of a partners online activity.
We will soon be expanding this feature with support for LinkedIn, Facebook, and more.
WITP: What is the process for a new company to sign-up to participate?
Chris: Partners can sign up here by simply filling out a few details. Once we have checked they are indeed a valid Microsoft partner their profile goes live on the site.
WITP: What benefits do companies get from being part of PartnerPulse?
Chris: Firstly they get a beautiful free microsite that is easy to maintain, and can surface all of their online activity automatically.
Secondly profiles are a rich source of SEO, and already we are seeing partners get great traffic and attention from Google. Google no longer index tweets, and Yammer is normally closed off. We make it easy to surface this stuff.
Thirdly, as the site grows in popularity, PartnerPulse is a great place to engage and talk to other partners, clients, and potential customers. We are dedicated to Microsoft partners, so quickly you can see how we become a rich source of partner news and interactions.
WITP: Is Microsoft aware of your efforts and/or are you working with them?
Chris:The site is totally independent and separate to Microsoft. We have had several very positive conversations with various teams within Microsoft, and they are interested by what we are trying to do.
At the end of the day they want partner companies to be successful. They see us helping partners to market themselves, so see as us a power for good.
We continue to speak to them regularly.
WITP: What is your ultimate goal and vision for PartnerPulse?
Chris: Right now we are really focused on getting partners to sign up. A community such as ours needs to hit a certain tipping point to become really useful. That is our focus.
At the same time we are expanding the 'socially connected' side of the site. Blogs, Twitter, and Yammer are all supported today. LinkedIn and Facebook are obvious next candidates. We are also really excited by things like Instagram and seeing what content like that can add to profiles.
Ultimately we want to provide a new and interesting window on the Microsoft partner network. We think socially connected profiles start to provide a really interesting way at looking at partners and even evaluating them.
If a partner has a huge twitter following, or the whole company uses Yammer, what does that say to potential clients? We wrote more about this in our blog - The social scoring of Microsoft Partners.