B2B markets conversion into social media

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1 B2B markets conversion into social media Multi-strategy analysis of social media use and attitudes in industrial and IT companies Student: Céline Veldeman Supervisor: Professor Dr. Ellen Van Praet Co-supervisor: Dr. Peter Mechant Ghent University Master in Multilingual Business Communication Academic Year This research was executed in collaboration with 1

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3 Acknowledgements As a thesis is never truly an individual project I like to hold on to tradition and start this thesis by expressing my gratitude to all those who have made this interesting research possible. First and foremost, I would like to thank all research participants for their contribution and especially the interviewees for their extra time commitment. Secondly, my gratitude goes to my internship mentors Maaike Lens and Frank Van den Bossche for offering me this research opportunity and providing me with the necessary resources and constructive feedback, both practically and content-wise, to achieve a satisfying result. Thirdly, I give my thanks to my supervisor Ellen Van Praet and co-supervisor Peter Mechant for their interest in this research topic and the good cooperation. Finally, I like to show my gratefulness to my family and friends who have supported me, not only during the writing process, but throughout this whole year. Moreover, a special word of thanks goes to my parents for proofreading this document. ii

4 Abstract While social media boom in B2C markets, many B2B companies have been reluctant in embracing those media due to lack of successful role models. Some patterns of involvement by B2B enterprises do exist, but academic research into this phenomenon remains very limited. Through quantitative and qualitative research we investigate Belgian B2B professionals perception of social media and their adoption degree. Based on UK research (Michaelidou, Siamagka, & Christodoulides, 2011), we examine the hypothesis that IT B2B companies are more inclined to be active on social media than industrial enterprises, creating more concrete and measurable results. We surveyed 92 Belgian B2B companies online and interviewed 11 enterprises to complement the quantitative research and explain (non-)differences between sectors in attitudes, knowledge and implementation strategies. Results demonstrate B2B enterprises value social media for their large communication reach, increasing brand awareness, traceability and companies understanding of market trends through customer feedback. Contrary to IT, industrial companies perceive negative comments as a great risk and struggle in convincing management and employees of social media s benefits. This research confirms IT enterprises are more motivated to use social media than industrial companies as their target groups are already active. IT companies also approach social media more systematically, whereas industrial enterprises often start their activities without a clear strategy until benefits are proven. Irrespective of strategic approach or adoption rate, both sectors execute similar activities and measurements, indicating IT companies results are probably not more concrete and measurable. Word count: Key words: B2B - social media - corporate communication - perceived usefulness - perceived ease of use - knowledge - strategy iii

5 Table of contents List of figures... vi List of tables... vi Introduction... 1 Part 1: Theoretical background 1 B2B defined The corporate communication concept B2B markets The industrial buying process Buyer behaviour The social media revolution Definition social media Penetration of social media B2B and social media Technology Acceptance Model Disconnection B2B versus social media Obstacles to adoption Benefits Social media goals Part 2: Method 4 Method Research questions Methodological approach Research strategy and methods Sampling and data collection Analysis Part 3: Quantitative research results 5 Quantitative analysis Non-active companies Active companies Social media approach Technology Acceptance Model Social media metrics and measurement Conclusion Part 4: Qualitative research results 6 Qualitative analysis Rationale for B2B to embrace social media Social media s necessity for B2B iv

6 6.1.2 Perception of the research hypothesis Social media relevance Social media attitudes Perceived usefulness Perceived ease of use Social media knowledge Best practices Social media effectiveness Social media strategy Social media goals and integration in business Social media activities Measurement Conclusion Discussion Bibliography Appendices Appendix A: contact Appendix B: online questionnaire Appendix C: interviewees Appendix D: interview guide Appendix E: codebook v

7 List of figures Figure 1: Information sources used at any stage of the buying process... 5 Figure 2: The Technology Acceptance Model... 8 Figure 3: Frequency of social media use by tech buyers... 9 Figure 4: Social media use in B2B companies Figure 5: Time investment in social media Figure 6: Strategic approach to social media according to sector Figure 7: Social media goals according to sector Figure 8: Perceived advantages according to sector Figure 9: Perceived usefulness Figure 10: Social media metrics List of tables Table 1: The B2B buying process... 4 Table 2: Sampling frame industrial divisions Table 3: Industrial divisions present in the sample Table 4: Social media channels in use Table 5: Social media goals Table 6: Industrial social media goals Table 7: IT social media goals Table 8: Social media advantages Table 9: Perceived advantages by industrial companies Table 10: Perceived advantages by IT companies Table 11: Social media presence interviewed companies Table 12: Social media knowledge interviewees vi

8 Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts. (Cameron, 1963) vii

9 Introduction Talking about social media, spotlights especially shine on business-to-consumer (B2C) companies. How do social media as promotion channels then apply to business-to-business (B2B) enterprises? This research investigates social media use, attitudes and implementation strategies within Belgian B2B companies. Through quantitative research we investigate if IT and industrial B2B companies differ in social media adoption. Qualitative follow-up research explains differences and similarities between both sectors, by analysing perceived benefits and risks, social media knowledge and strategies. Although social media have been hyped since early 21 st century, research into social media is very limited and focuses mainly on B2C enterprises. There is a systematic lack of academic research into how social media are used by B2B companies and can support business objectives. Moreover, most existing research is quantitative, limited to foreign countries (e.g. Kerkhofs & de Jong, 2012; Michaelidou et al., 2011). By mapping social media use within Belgian B2B companies through quantitative and qualitative research, existing hiatuses are filled. This research contains academic and economic relevance. By applying the Technology Acceptance Model on (B2B) companies, we provide new insights in its applicability on organisations rather than people. Multi-strategy research offers a more reflexive analysis of reality, ensuring academic extensiveness in understudied research domains. Increasingly, companies use social media as business tools to gain potential profits, business leads and sector relevance (Marketo, 2010). By focussing on IT and industrial B2B companies, we encompass the market s core since they were world s most common B2B purchases (Base one, 2011). This research may instigate debate on how social media change business. This thesis contains four parts: literature study, method, quantitative and qualitative analysis. The first part encompasses a theoretical framework on B2B markets, the social media revolution and B2B s social media acceptance, use and attitudes. We then outline the research hypothesis and questions, followed by our methodological approach. Finally, the main quantitative and qualitative results are described. 1

10 Part 1: Theoretical background 1 B2B defined The corporate communication concept B2B markets The industrial buying process 2 The social media revolution Definition social media Penetration of social media 3 B2B and social media Technology Acceptance Model Disconnection B2B versus social media 2

11 1 B2B defined 1.1 The corporate communication concept Social media have become part of many companies corporate communications. While some authors define corporate communication as a mechanism to secure a company s market position (Tench & Yeomans, 2008), others align it with public relations and relationship management (Niemann & Steyn, 2010). This research follows Van Riel s widely accepted definition as an overarching framework. According to Van Riel, corporate communication involves all activities orchestrating a company s communication, corporate design and employee behaviour to create a distinctive and appealing reputation among stakeholders on which a company depends (Argenti, 1994; Gray & Balmer, 1998; Van Riel, 2001). In other words, it is the management of communication, securing a company s reputation, and thereby its competitiveness, productivity and financial success (Meredith, 2012). Improving reputation is therefore only a means to another end. Yet, corporate communication is not linked to communication channels; any contact people have with a company creates an image (Kotler, Keller, Robben, Geuens, & Ponfoort, 2010). Therefore, we narrow our research field by aligning business communication with promotion, as defined by Kotler. Promotion is the part of communication that consists of company messages designed to stimulate awareness of, interest in, and purchase of its various products and services. (Kotler, 2003) Promotion is coordinated corporate communication addressing target groups characteristics and preferences to (directly or indirectly) inform, persuade and remind them of certain products or services (Kotler et al., 2010). To catch one s attention companies first need to define how their target population is spending their attention time. After creating awareness, attention must be kept and action triggered (Kotler, 2003). After creating corporate brand awareness, promotion/communication serves conversation and relationship build-ups. Whether it then leads to buying, is another question. 1.2 B2B markets B2B companies manufacture and sell products and services to organisations for their own use or to sell on to other businesses (Wright, 2004). B2B and B2C differ especially in their end consumer: B2C companies transfer goods and/or services to individual consumers, whereas B2B markets concern the procurement, logistics and administrative processes between firms (Gereffi, 2001). Other important differences are the rather small number of buyers in B2B markets, but larger purchases. B2B buying processes are also more complex because multiple people participate in purchase decisions (i.e. the decision making unit/dmu 1 ), whereas in B2C often only one person decides (Kotler et al., 2010). The DMU and complexity of most B2B products require multiple face-to-face negotiations and a close collaboration between marketer and customer. Contrary to B2C, B2B buying implicates qualified purchaser, professional offers and supplier contracts (Hamakers, 2011; Kotler et al., 2010). Lastly, B2B purchasers are more cost-driven and led by 1 The decision making unit or DMU includes all people of an organisation playing a role in the buying decision (Geuens, 2011). 3

12 objective reasons than emotionally driven B2C customers (Callebaut, 2011). However, the distinction remains artificial since purchase decisions are always made by people, influenced by personal needs and perceptions (Hamakers, 2011). Although B2B purchasers can be commercial, not-for-profit or governmental companies (Kotler et al., 2010), this research focuses on commercial markets, particularly IT and industrial B2B enterprises. IT companies generate a substantial amount of technical knowledge in industries such as computers, biotechnology and software. The sector contains both products and/or services providers, characterised by continuous innovation. They provide electronics, software, hardware, computers or services related to information technology (Investopedia, 2012; Mitchell, 2011). The industrial or secondary sector encompasses organisations that acquire goods and services for production into end products, to be then sold or rented to others (EconomyWatch, 2010; Wright, 2004). Due to many industry classifications, defining which companies belong to which industry is not straightforward. According to the Europe-index, there are 23 industrial divisions, such as aeronautic, food, automotive, textile, (European Commission, 2012). This research equally addressed a broad range of manufacturing industries (see part 4.2.2). 1.3 The industrial buying process B2B or industrial buying is the decision process by companies concerning a particular supplier when searching and evaluating products and services, earlier identified as a need (Geuens, 2011). There exist three kinds of B2B purchases. First, the straight re-buy, implying repeated purchases of products and services from an existing supplier (Callebaut, 2011). Second, during a modified re-buy, purchase elements are changed -such as price and delivery period- making the process more difficult than straight re-buys. Third, a new purchase occurs when products or services are bought for the first time, creating a complex purchase process, requiring more product information (Kotler et al., 2010). Depending on purchase type, buying processes differ in difficulty and intensity. In general B2B purchases entail eight phases, but when straight re-buys or modified re-buys occur, several phases can be left out (Kotler et al., 2010). The buying process starts with the comprehension of a company s need for certain products or services. Once known, the buyer specifies the requested product characteristics and quantity. In a third phase, the product specifications are defined by multiple people like managers and end users (Kotler et al., 2010). Then the buyer looks for the right supplier. Potential suppliers are asked for 4

13 quotations and evaluated on several criteria. When the ultimate supplier is selected, the order is negotiated, i.e. the number and technical characteristics. After the purchase, the supplier s performance is continuously evaluated (Callebaut, 2011). Although this process is typically put forward as B2B procurement, it also occurs within B2C markets when buying investment goods like cars and real estate. Whereas buying from IT or industrial B2B companies predominantly implies multi-stage sales funnels due to complex and expensive products and/or services, straight re-buys seldom involve comparisons of suppliers and negotiations. They are therefore similar to regular B2C buying (Kotler et al., 2010) Buyer behaviour Social media have changed buyer behaviour over the last few years: buyers control their information searches when using social media to solicit advice from friends, colleagues and communities (Base one, 2011; Hamakers, 2011). Information sources used at any stage of the process Other social media Twitter LinkedIn Blogs Facebook Totals Any traditional online 88% Any offline 74% Any new online/social media 40% Offline events/seminars Online events/webinars Press advertising Direct mail Word-of-mouth s from suppliers Industry press (print) Web searches Supplier websites 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% New online/social media Offline Traditional online Figure 1: Information sources used at any stage of the buying process (Base one, 2011) In all stages of the buying cycle traditional online information sources are most frequently used, followed by offline sources and social media. 40% of industrial buyers already use social media (Base one, 2011). Physical events remain, however, important in B2B buying. The more complex a purchase decision, the more buyers rely on personal information sources, such as face-to-face meetings (Alejandro, Kowalkowski, Ritter, Marchetti, & Prado, 2011). 5

14 Since social media are presentation means, buyers are turning to those tools for their information searches. Purchasers also actively look for trustworthy information on social media to identify potential partners. Social media based product and/or service information are perceived as more reliable than company sponsored communication through traditional channels (Alejandro et al., 2011; Mangold & Faulds, 2009). Social media use has especially increased during three key stages in the buying cycle: need identification, supplier identification and selection (Base one, 2011). Although supplier websites and web searches are the single most used sources for identification of one s needs, still 31% of B2B purchasers apply social media (Base one, 2011). When buyers move onto identifying potential suppliers, a similar media pattern occurs: traditional online media are used most, followed by 30% of the buyers using social media. Buyersphere research (2011) shows Belgian social media usage in this stage falls far below that of German and British purchasers. Furthermore, only 25% of purchasers use social media for the collection of offers and supplier choice because personal information sources become more important as the buying process advances (Alejandro et al., 2011). When true dialogue between partners occurs, buyer-seller relationships are being formed, focussing on long-term and co-operative buyer-seller relations (Pop, Mihoc, Eotea, & Lazar, 2011; Webster & Keller, 2004). B2B buyers increasingly turn to those media to create value in relationship building as they offer fast and personal communication. Social media s influence on B2B buying is also rising: blogs and Twitter, for example, both are in the top five of most influential information sources (Base one, 2011). Facebook has the least weight in B2B markets. These tools are not yet as decisive in B2B markets as in B2C buying (Hamakers, 2011). Traditional online channels such as , web searches and supplier websites remain more influential. Industrial buyers use, nevertheless, many information sources, demanding companies to consider a mix of communication instruments (Alejandro et al., 2011; Mangold & Faulds, 2009). Social media are part of this mix and have therefore an undeniable importance in buying processes. 2 The social media revolution Although the term social media is widely used nowadays, perceptions of its meaning significantly differ. Therefore our take on the concept is explicitly defined. 2.1 Definition social media The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms. (Socrates, 5th century B.C.) Social media Facebook, Twitter, SlideShare, in recent years evolved to a number where one cannot know them all. They continuously change and hugely vary in scope and functionality. Hence, we focus on the idea behind social media rather than on different types. Social media are often coined as internet platforms where content creation, information sharing and interactions occur (Marketo, 2010; Postman, 2009). Most authors share the same view-point, but differ in focus: Boyd (2009) describes it as social software, whereas Haenlein and Kaplan (2010) refer to the technical Web 2.0 principle, characterised by user-generated-content. Social media definitions addressing user-generated-content often imply the revolution those media caused in information creating and sharing. Consumers now control online information exchanges (Michaelidou et al., 2011). 6

15 Other authors focus their definitions on collaboration and co-creation (e.g. Kietzmann, Hermkens, McCarthy, & Silvestre, 2011). This research follows Tamar Weinberg s definition, combining different focuses: Social media is the collaborative tools used for communication. It relates to the media - that is, those storage/transmission tools that relay data- but refers to that which allows users/members to be social and interact with one another. [ ] In the age of the social internet, we refer to the tools and content that are created by people using these interactive technologies as social media." (Weinberg in Carson, 2010) According to Weinberg, community director of Mashable.com, social media are both tools and content, simultaneously enabling collaboration, sharing, interaction, storage and transmission. 2.2 Penetration of social media B2B marketers are pressured to create a social media presence since many sources claim those media s necessity within B2B contexts (GlobalSpec, 2011; Kerley, 2010a; Marketo, 2010). There is a lack of Belgian figures, but quantitative US, Dutch and UK research demonstrate social media usage is growing within B2B sectors. 93% of US B2B marketers actively use social media (Holden-Bache, 2011), compared to 58% of Dutch B2B companies (SpotONvision, 2012) and only 27% of UK B2B brands (Michaelidou et al., 2011). Additionally, both in the US (72%) and the Netherlands (83%) LinkedIn is most used, followed by Twitter and Facebook (Holden-Bache, 2011; SpotONvision, 2012). UK marketers, however, prefer Facebook (77%). US B2B marketers are ahead of Europe. According to Accenture Global Marketing research (2011), two-thirds of North American B2B marketers believe in social media s benefits (Digitize, 2011; Thomas, 2011), while 72% of Dutch companies and 61% of UK businesses find social media unimportant (SpotONvision, 2012). Forrester research (in Marketo, 2010) estimated in 2009 that 77% of US B2B IT companies were active on social media, while in 2011 the number of industrial professionals was still well below 30% (Capstone, 2011). These findings indicate differences in social media usage among sectors. According to the literature, companies innovativeness and presence of technical skills determine social media adoption: innovative enterprises are more inclined to use social media (Michaelidou et al., 2011). This could explain IT has a higher social media presence than industrial B2B companies. 3 B2B and social media 3.1 Technology Acceptance Model The Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) by Davis (1989) was developed to predict who is most likely to accept new technologies at work. Recent inquiries show that TAM can explain intentions to use social media technologies (Dieteren, 2011; Willis, 2008). Through TAM, we can examine reasons behind the possible differences in the social media adoption rate between IT and industrial B2B enterprises. 7

16 This TAM figure explains the usage of technology by two determinants: perceived usefulness (U) and perceived ease of use (EOU). U is the degree to which a person believes using a particular system would enhance his/her job performance, while EOU is the degree to which a person believes using a particular system would be free of effort" (Davis, Bagozzi, & Warshaw, 1989). Two mechanisms determine the EOU, namely self-efficacy and instrumentality. The more a person believes the technology is easy to use, the more he/she feels confident and in control to start using it. The more user-friendly the technology, the higher its utility, meaning EOU also directly influences perceived usefulness (Verdegem, 2010). Actual behaviour is determined by behavioural intent, which is based on an individual s attitude towards the technology and, simultaneously, perceived user benefit (De Marez, 2006). Although having a negative attitude towards social media, he/she might still adopt them when positive benefits are expected. In sum, TAM can explain both behavioural intention and actual use of a technology. These technology acceptance indicators are conceptually different since intention is influenced by attitudes and only qualitative measurable and actual use is a quantifiable action (Willis, 2008). However, for most applications technology acceptance is similar to intention, i.e. one can infer technology acceptance when respondents demonstrate intention to use it (Willis, 2008). This model shows its robustness by its use in many researches to explain the acceptance of (Straub, Keil, & Brenner, 1997), internet based services such as e-commerce (Koufaris, 2002; Pavlou, 2003), and social media (Willis, 2008). This thesis applies the model in an attempt to explain companies acceptance of social media. We expect the same logic, since employees perceptions significantly influence company behaviour. We assume enterprises are more willing to adopt social media when these are easy to use, i.e. require little investment in time and money. In this research setting social media usefulness is also determined by social pressure & presence, the risk of sharing (personal) information and their effectiveness in improving companies communication and relationship building (Dieteren, 2011). 8

17 3.2 Disconnection B2B versus social media Due to scarce academic research on social media in B2B, information within this section is acquired through articles, blogs and quasi-scientific surveys by practitioners. Contrary to B2B, one easily finds hundreds of B2C social media success stories. While 65% of US B2B companies find social media to be very important for their business, only 8% is reaping the benefits (Thomas, 2011). Similarly, many Dutch (28%) and UK (30%) B2B companies, active in social media, work without a strategy, missing out on several opportunities (SpotONvision, 2011). Even though B2B social media presence is increasing, it still falls behind on B2C because many are not truly convinced about their effectiveness. Prejudices are also strongly present: B2B companies believe that social media do not fit their industry, are not used by their audience and cannot serve relationship building (SpotONvision, 2011, 2012). Not less than 32% of Dutch B2B companies do not have a need for social media (Kerkhofs & de Jong, 2012) According to US industry research, the main reasons for non-adoption are the idea that customers are not using it (49%) and the lack of business value (34%) (Semplice, 2012). The same goes for IT companies: We sell difficult technical products within B2B, we don t see the usefulness of social media. (Anonymous in SpotONvision, 2011) Most companies fear making the wrong investments because of unfamiliarity and lack of social media knowledge, followed by lack of time and other priorities (Thomas, 2011). More than 80% of B2B US companies find social media very challenging; showing the necessity of more knowledge, resources and confidence (Paulsen, 2011).Yet, as mentioned before, their buyers already use social media as search engines in decision making processes. US studies prove that both IT and industrial buyers use those media (Levanto, 2011; ThomasNet, 2011). Frequency of social media use by tech buyers LinkedIn 8% 11% 29% 51% 1% Twitter 12% 6% 22% 60% Daily Weekly Monthly YouTube 16% 25% 46% 13% 1% Never Bias Facebook 29% 13% 23% 35% 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% Figure 3: Frequency of social media use by tech buyers (Levanto, 2011) 9

18 Although a large group of IT buyers never use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or YouTube, a significant number does. 63% of industrial buyers use social media once a week: 25% of them use LinkedIn to resource industrial products/services and 21% to research potential partners (ThomasNet, 2011). Not less than 59% engages with peers and 48% follows sector conversations (Kerley, 2010a, 2010b) Obstacles to adoption Besides the conviction of a non-fit between B2B and social media, B2B often lacks key factors to successfully adopt those media (Comprehensio, s.d.). Firstly, while a (semi-)dedicated person/team is necessary, communication employees within B2B companies are often limited. For US B2B companies, lack of resources is the most important implementation obstacle (Hosford, 2012). Secondly, insights in how target audiences use social media are required for a successful implementation. As these companies competitive advantage is based on expertise and not on client knowledge, they have little information on how clients professionally apply social media (Comprehensio, s.d.). Thirdly, management commitment is essential, but board resistance still occurs within 22% of B2B companies, due to lack of resources, knowledge and success metrics (Hosford, 2012). Management often sees social media as a cost rather than an investment, blocking within 35% of the companies social media access (GlobalSpec, 2011). Lastly, many B2B marketers feel they -and their customers- are not ready for social media because their company culture is not open minded towards participation and dialogue. They still doubt the meaning of engagement and how it can be measured quantitatively (Marketo, 2010; Nair & Sidhu, 2010). B2B companies focussing on traditional return on investment (ROI) metrics like number of followers are deterred from finding value in social media and are therefore hesitant to implement. B2B target markets often are smaller than B2C audiences, requiring other goals and measurement (Nair & Sidhu, 2010) Benefits Since prospects now rely on social media to educate themselves before contacting a company, B2B companies miss out on potential profits, business leads and sector relevance when they are not active on social media (Marketo, 2010). Many sources claim the necessity of B2B social media presence to reap the benefits. Social media provide engagement in conversations with current and prospective buyers, enhancing corporate image and awareness which can be used to stimulate lead generation. B2B transactions rely on strong relationships, so social media can easily leverage new touch points for interaction (GlobalSpec, 2011; Kerley, 2010a). Twitter is one of the channels appropriate for building professional relationships (Radian6, 2010). B2B products are often complex and difficult, so knowledge sharing and problem solving within online networks can be true assets. According to US research, buyers mainly use social media for knowledge acquisition and Questions & Answers (Kerley, 2010b). Through online social information exchange B2B companies increase their credibility and decrease confusion amongst potential buyers, leading to higher purchasing rates (Kerley, 2010a). Knowledge and experience sharing are best 10

19 leveraged through blogs which drive traffic to the corporate website through social media and internet searches (Hosford, 2012; Radian6, 2010). Third-party feedback, often present on social media, plays a central role in B2B purchase decisions. A good social media presence may instigate favourable word-of-mouth, influencing buyers (Kerley, 2010a). By generating and sharing ideas in user communities one can get feedback and collaboration from prospects/clients, leading to interesting Research & Development ideas (GlobalSpec, 2011). User communities also create customer loyalty, sales opportunities and reduce support costs (Radian6, 2010). Finally, through social media companies can materialise the benefits of likeability by showing their personality and workforce. The more people like your company, the more fans/followers are inclined to become a client and recommend the enterprise to others (Radian6, 2010) Social media goals Once convinced, companies determine their social media goals which must be aligned towards business goals to retrieve value from it (Jensen, 2010). Since every company is different -has different goals, customers, cultures and budgets- each enterprise needs to find the right formula for its specific business (Nair & Sidhu, 2010). Because social media goals depend on companies industry, target groups and resources, research results often differ from one another. While some researchers claim staying up to date with industry news is the most important objective (GlobalSpec, 2011), others pretend it is engagement (SpotONvision, 2012). Regarding international research results, US, UK and Dutch companies vary in their social media objectives. According to US research from Penton Marketing, increasing awareness and brand building are the most essential objectives, followed by customer engagement and increasing web traffic (Paulsen, 2011). For Dutch companies engagement is the single most important goal (71%), while non-interactive objectives like online exposure and listening to market trends come in second (47%) (SpotONvision, 2012). UK research, then again, finds interaction to be a less popular reason for social media adoption: 91% of UK B2B companies use social media to attract new customers, build customer relationships (86%) and increase brand awareness (73%) (Michaelidou et al., 2011). 11

20 Part 2: Method 4 Method Research questions Methodological approach 12

21 4 Method 4.1 Research questions Success stories about effective (commercial) social media usage by B2B companies are scarce: B2B enterprises have been reluctant in fully embracing social media, and often lack a strategy to materialise benefits (Veldwijk, 2011). This research attempts to explain this behaviour. Because of user adoption, social media might be more interesting to certain sectors than others. For instance, B2B IT companies have already been more inclined to adopt those channels. They might have established a more effective presence compared to other sectors (Michaelidou et al., 2011). This research starts from the following hypothesis: B2B IT companies have been more inclined to use social media compared to B2B industrial companies, making the results from their social media activities more concrete and measurable. By formulating three subordinate questions, this research intends not only to confirm the hypothesis, or not, but also to bring forward the reasons behind the possible difference in adoption rate, usage and effectiveness. 1. What are the expectations concerning the benefits and risks of being active on social media? 2. What knowledge do both industries have on social media usage and their effectiveness? 3. How do both industries integrate social media into their commercial strategy? The research results should show similarities and differences between both sectors regarding knowledge, attitudes and implementation strategies. 4.2 Methodological approach Research strategy and methods This thesis applies multi-strategy research or triangulation by integrating qualitative and quantitative studies (Bryman, 2004). To create diversified insights, we quantitatively investigate associations between variables, followed by qualitative research to explain those relationships. Qualitative respondents were selected through the quantitative research (Bryman, 2006). Due to lack of Belgian research into B2B social media use, it was necessary to first chart this usage within B2B companies through a descriptive large scale quantitative study. Quantitative research can test hypotheses and uncover to what extent a specific behaviour is already present (De Pelsmacker & Van Kenhove, 2010; Van Alphen, 2009). While quantitative research provides hard and general facts, qualitative approaches offer in-depth understanding of attitudes and ideas (Bryman, 2004). Therefore, qualitative research provides contextual understanding of differences in social media motivations and goals, i.e. between industrial and IT B2B companies (Nuttall, Shankar, Beverland, & Hooper, 2011). 13

22 We applied a quantitative self-completion online questionnaire and semi-structured interviews. Respondents first filled in a standardised questionnaire, made available online (SurveyMonkey). Survey research identifies associations of patterns between variables at one point in time. As data are collected at one moment, we cannot determine causal directions of possible relationships, i.e. we cannot objectively state that the company s sector influences social media adoption/use. This research is therefore low in internal validity (Bryman, 2004). Our qualitative data then explain possible causes for found relationships. Other disadvantages are: missing data, partially answered questions, and low response rates. We are unable to prove companies that do not participate are similar to those who do. This possibly influences our results. However, questionnaire standardisation and researcherrespondent distance do provide objective research data (Bryman, 2004). Through semi-structured interviews we complement the rigid quantitative output by reconstructing nonobservable aspects. Contrary to quantitative objectivity, interview research subjectively co-creates meaning. Interviewer and interviewees uncover together B2B social media perceptions and attitudes (De Pelsmacker & Van Kenhove, 2010). The most important risks are non-replicability and interviewer effects: non-systematic interviewer behaviour during the interviews may impact the outcome. Since the interviewer is the most important research instrument, it is difficult to formalise this research. Each interview is characterised by a different context and phrasing of questions (D'Hoest, 2010). We nevertheless increase replicability by specifying the applied procedures and tools, and we decrease interviewer effects through predetermined questions (Mortelmans, 2007). A semi-structured interview implies standardised questions and formulation, but neither answer possibilities nor a strict sequence (Boeije, 2005; D'Hoest, 2010). The small number of interviewees makes it impossible to generalise research results. Through thick description (rich descriptions composed of facts, commentary and interpretation) we extract meaning structures that allow readers to judge whether results are transferable to other contexts (Geertz, 1973; Mortelmans, 2007) Sampling and data collection This research applied purposive sampling methods, i.e. respondents are chosen based on their theoretical contribution (D'Hoest, 2010). Within the survey research we first executed a judgement sampling: a number of conditions had to be fulfilled before a respondent could participate (De Pelsmacker & Van Kenhove, 2010). Based upon the criteria Belgian industrial or IT B2B company, 499 enterprises were selected from the BEMAS member s list 2 and Data News ICT Guide. They received the 15 th of May 2012 an invitation to participate (see appendix A). We contacted 374 IT companies, specialised in informatics, software and web services and 125 industrial enterprises from the following divisions: 2 BEMAS is the Belgian Maintenance Association vzw-asbl; 14

23 Because of low response rates, we sent a reminder the 24 th of May 2012, and applied a second screened sampling. Through LinkedIn and Twitter we further spread the request for participation, following the same criteria (De Pelsmacker & Van Kenhove, 2010). The survey was in Dutch, questioning social media use and perceptions, followed by a profile mapping. It especially contains closed-ended questions with multiple answer possibilities and five-point Likert scales (see appendix B). Interview respondents were selected through a convenience sample. Within the questionnaire we asked participants whether they were prepared to take part in an interview (De Pelsmacker & Van Kenhove, 2010). Willing companies were contacted through . The sample consists of 11 respondents (see appendix C). The interviews were held face-to-face in Dutch, since they achieve the highest quality (D'Hoest, 2010). The semi-structured interview guide deepens insights in social media attitudes and use, adding the topic knowledge (see appendix D) Analysis The quantitative data were analysed through SPSS. We used frequency tables to analyse nominal and ordinal data, and means for scale data (De Pelsmacker & Van Kenhove, 2010). Five-point Likert scales were used to measure respondents idea on several statements. By attributing a value to each scale item, we can determine companies level of agreement. The closer the mean-value to 5, the more respondents agree. To identify differences in usage, strategies and attitudes between both sectors, we applied univariate data analyses. We carried out Chi-square tests for nominal data and T-tests for scale data. Only relevant and significant associations are taken into account. We apply a confidence interval of 95%, i.e. discovered differences are significant when the p-value of Chi-square or sig-value of T-tests is 15

24 below 0,05. So, with a certainty of 95% our results are not influenced by coincidence. Relevance refers to the strength of significant associations, calculated through statistical measurements Cramer s V in case of Chi-square test and Eta in case of T-tests. The closer the value to 1, the stronger the strength of association; a value higher than 0,2 signifies relevant associations (De Pelsmacker & Van Kenhove, 2010; Van den Bosch, 2009). The qualitative data are analysed through NVivo: we reduce the data through thematic coding and then define relations between codes (see appendix E). 16

25 Part 3: Quantitative research results 5 Quantitative analysis Non-active companies Active companies Conclusion 17

26 5 Quantitative analysis From the 140 respondents, 80,7% completed the questionnaire. 48 participants had to be removed from analysis due to inconsistency with our definitions of industrial and IT B2B companies. This minimises the margin of error and increases the results validity (De Pelsmacker & Van Kenhove, 2010). The definite sample contains 92 respondents. A distinction was made along two dimensions: company size and operational sector. The sample consists of 56,5% IT and 43,5% industrial B2B companies. Eight industrial divisions are represented. Most respondents are general management (30,3%), followed by 28,1% responsible for marketing, 15,7% for communication and 11,2% for sales. Concerning company size, the sample encompasses 50% small companies (i.e. 21,7% employing 1 to 9 employees and 28,3% employing between 10 and 49 people); 27,2% medium-sized enterprises (50 to 250 employees), and 22,8% large companies (engaging more than 250 employees). Social media use 8,7% 5,4% Yes, we use social media, but do not monitor competitors 41,3% Yes, we use social media and monitor competitors 44,6% No, we do not actively use social media but do monitor No, we do not actively use social media and do not monitor Figure 4: Social media use in B2B companies 18

27 85,9% of B2B companies use social media. As reported by the literature (Capstone, 2011; Marketo, 2010), IT companies are significantly more active in social media than industrial enterprises (p= 0,009; Cramer s V= 0,274). 5.1 Non-active companies Ten industrial and three IT companies are not active on social media. While five industrial enterprises plan a social media presence, three companies are in doubt, four claim they will never use social media and one did not answer the question. Because of the low number of non-users we cannot make statistical conclusions on their motives for not being active. It equally comes down to reasons as social media are a waste of time, are too difficult, lack added value, and increase the risk of publishing wrong information. 5.2 Active companies LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are the most appreciated and used social media. From the media list, it is striking that blogs hold a fifth position since they require high investments. Several companies also mention Pinterest, Issuu and Yammer. IT companies are using the top five social media, and SlideShare, significantly more than industrial companies (p< 0,05; Cramer s V> 0,2). The majority of industrial and IT B2B companies have used social media for less than two years (54,4%). 31,6% has been active for less than six months and only 13,9% has had a social media presence for more than two years. 19

28 Time investment less than monthly once a month multiple times a month once a week multiple times a week once a day multiple times a day Figure 5: Time investment in social media 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% 30% 35% 40% 45% Industrial and IT enterprises are regularly using social media: 41,8% applies them multiple times a day. Still 30,4% only uses them a few times a week Social media approach Similar to previous research (e.g. SpotONvision, 2011) very few companies have a social media strategy: 19% of B2B companies use a plan, 35,4% is implementing their strategy, 41,8% is just experimenting, and 3,8% of the respondents have no idea (this number is not pictured in figure 6). IT companies are most advanced in their strategic approach. 60% Strategic approach to social media 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% We are experimenting We are implementing a strategy Figure 6: Strategic approach to social media according to sector We operate with a strategic plan IT 32,7% 40,8% 26,5% Industry 56,7% 26,7% 6,7% 20

29 Results indicate industrial companies are significantly more experimenting with social media, without a plan (p= 0,006; Cramer s V= 0,396). Additionally, it is generally believed that B2B companies act without strategy. 40% of the respondents (highly) agree with the following premise: De meeste B2Bbedrijven die sociale media gebruiken, doen dat zonder een duidelijke strategie. (mean= 3,47) Concerning social media goals, our results confirm US Penton Marketing research (2011): brand awareness is the most important Traffic goal. building and recruiting own the second and third position. 3 However, contrary to UK and US literature (Michaelidou et al., 2011; Paulsen, 2011), relationship building and lead generation appear less important for Belgian B2B enterprises. Though, the smaller the company, the more social media are used for lead generation (p= 0,023; Cramer s V= 0,322). Brand awareness Social media goals Recruiting 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Relationship building Traffic building Lead generation Industrial companies IT companies Figure 7: Social media goals according to sector 3 Since respondents could indicate their three most important goals, the table presents added percentages. 21

30 Brand awareness is for both sectors the ultimate goal. This appears to be significantly more important for IT companies (p= 0,007; Cramer s V= 0,279), just as recruitment (p= 0,002; Cramer s V= 0,318). Although, the second and third most important social media goals vary between sectors, they represent neither significant nor relevant dissimilarities Technology Acceptance Model To measure perceived usefulness and ease of use, we adopted already tested scale items (Willis, 2008). Additionally, we questioned social media advantages to deepen insights in perceived usefulness. Perceived usefulness B2B companies consider social media as communication means. Through a larger communication reach, brand awareness can more easily be reached. Relationship building is the second most important advantage. Displaying expertise to as many people as possible comes in third. 4 Furthermore, research results show the smaller the company, the more one sees relationship building as an advantage (p= 0,027; Cramer s V= 0,316). 4 Since respondents could indicate the three most important advantages, the table presents added percentages. 22

31 Perceived advantages according to sector Feedback from target groups Customer engagement Larger communication reach 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Relationship building Low cost Monitoring Thought leadership Credibility Industrial companies IT companies Figure 8: Perceived advantages according to sector As can be seen from the figure, IT companies perceive thought leadership, larger communication reach and customer engagement significantly more often as social media advantages than industrial enterprises (p< 0,05; Cramer s V> 0,25). 32,5% of industrial companies consider low cost as an important advantage, which is significantly higher than the 11,5% of IT companies (p= 0,014; Cramer s V= 0,257). The advantages B2B companies seek, strongly differ between sectors: low cost is only the sixth most important advantage for IT, and thought leadership comes in fourth for industrial enterprises. 23

32 Through our premises we measure B2B companies attitude on several social media benefits and risks. Respondents do not agree on the suggested negative side-effects, i.e. difficulties in employer bonding, protecting internal information and controlling wrong and/or inappropriate employees posts (mean< 2,4). B2B companies perceive social media as relatively useful to their businesses. Perceived usefulness Sociale media kunnen mijn bedrijf helpen om snel informatie te delen met klanten, partners en andere externen. 4,32 De dialoog met klanten en prospecten zal beter verlopen door het gebruik van sociale media. 3,43 Dankzij sociale media kan mijn bedrijf beter inspelen op ontwikkelingen in de markt. 3,37 Figure 9: Perceived usefulness (based on calculated means) Mean Similar to the most important advantage, i.e. larger communication reach, 69% of the respondents (highly) agree that social media offer quick information sharing. B2B companies are also inclined to agree with the other two statements, but respectively 26% and 31% of the respondents hold a neutral opinion. Perceived ease of use Practical and strategic perceived ease of use were measured through two premises: - Sociale media zijn heel praktisch om mee te werken. According to 49% of B2B companies, social media are (very) easy applicable (mean= 3,64). - Men kan heel vlot met sociale media werken, men moet niet lang stilstaan bij wat men doet. While most B2B companies consider social media as easy to use, the strategic determining of best practices is more difficult. Only 15% of the respondents agree with the premise (mean= 2,58) Social media metrics and measurement B2B companies remain in doubt concerning ROI measurements. 29% of the respondents pronounce a neutral opinion on the premise De meeste B2B-bedrijven die sociale media gebruiken, verkrijgen geen meetbare resultaten. (mean= 3,30) 24

33 Through an open-ended question, respondents were invited to provide more information on their measurement metrics respondents replied: 50 companies measure their ROI. - 5 respondents only measure qualitatively, i.e. evaluating perceptions through content tracking or feedback from clients companies measure quantitatively, applying web analytics provided by Google, Facebook and LinkedIn. 18 respondents only mention the use of web analytics/statistics; other Key Performance Indicator (KPI) measurements are the following: Social media metrics Traffic to the store Number of reactions Number of leads Traffic to the website Number of views/clicks/likes Number of retweets Number of followers Number of mentions Figure 10: Social media metrics 5.3 Conclusion The quantitative results confirm our hypothesis that Belgian IT B2B companies are more inclined to use social media than industrial B2B enterprises. IT also operates significantly more systematically. Based on the literature (SpotONvision, 2011), we assume this makes their activities outcome more concrete and measurable. Applying TAM to social media shows perceived usefulness overrules perceived ease of use. However, through quantitative research it does not explain why industrial companies are less likely to be already on social media. Through the interviews, we try to provide more insight in possible explanations for this conclusion: we seek to understand B2B attitudes in general and differences & similarities between industrial and IT B2B companies. 25

34 Part 4: Qualitative research results 6 Qualitative analysis Rationale for B2B to embrace social media Social media attitudes Social media knowledge Social media strategy Conclusion 26

35 6 Qualitative analysis When questioning B2B companies on social media, everyone immediately thinks about Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Most respondents add it is not a story about tools, but one of changing business mentality, leading to new communication practices involving direct client contact. To rightly interpret research conclusions, the interviewed companies social media presence (June 2012) is marked in four groups. Exertum does not find its clients on social media and will not expand beyond its LinkedIn profile. This analysis presents principal findings around four themes: perceptions of the research hypothesis, followed by social media attitudes, knowledge and application. 6.1 Rationale for B2B to embrace social media This part demonstrates social media are relevant and necessary for B2B companies to respond to changing market trends and buying behaviours. Industrial enterprises are less motivated to use social media than IT, lacking technological affinity and target groups who use social media Social media s necessity for B2B According to our respondents, target groups and employees mentalities are changing, requiring B2B companies to consciously use social media. Sociale media hebben plots een zekere dynamiek op gang gezet die er vroeger niet was, die je niet meer kan negeren. Dus je moet er mee omgaan: we zijn verplicht, of je het wilt of niet. (Daniel Eycken, NRB) Social media have suddenly introduced a certain dynamic which was not present before, one you can no longer ignore. You have to deal with it: we are obliged, whether you like it or not. B2B companies feel obliged to use social media because peer-to-peer recommendations influence increases as content sharing and customer feedback soliciting on those media expand. As stated in the literature (e.g. Kerley, 2010b) most respondents explain clients check social media for business solutions and trusted third-party feedback (e.g. recommendations) before the purchase decision. A website becomes insufficient to ascertain high traceability, and to keep reaching and influencing target groups, companies must participate in those online conversations. Interviewees add that younger generations entering the job market are used to social media and expect them in business environments, reinforcing the necessary presence. 27

36 Only Exertum and Puratos question social media s necessity because they believe, respectively, it only works within B2C and industrial B2B professionals are not using it. Het is voor te veel B2B-bedrijven misschien nog een nice to have, geen need to be. (Annick Beeterens, Exertum) Many B2B companies consider it still a nice to have, rather than a need to be. Because of their business activities, IT companies experience more pressure to adopt social media. Contrary to industrial enterprises, they believe their target groups actively use social media and that their stakeholders expect them to quickly integrate those media in the communication mix. In sum, IT must be forerunner in social media to secure its credibility and reputation Perception of the research hypothesis Unanimously believed, IT B2B enterprises adopt social media faster than their industrial counterparts. Compliant with the literature (Michaelidou et al., 2011), most interviewees presume IT companies innovativeness and affinity with internet applications instigate earlier adoption. Industry falls behind because those companies traditional mind-set hinders social media acceptance. Uiteindelijk is een IT bedrijf altijd innovatief, altijd op zoek naar wat er nieuw is en wat er veranderd is. De industrie is veel trager, het is een oudere sector. (Katrien Vanherck, Xylos). Ultimately an IT company is always innovative, always looking for what s new and what s changed. The industry is much slower, it is an older sector. Industriële bedrijven zijn over het algemeen vrij conservatief in de dingen die ze doen, maar ook in de manier van denken. Dat zijn het soort bedrijven die in een later stadium sociale media gaan overnemen. (Katrina Wright, ABB). Industrial companies are in general fairly conservative in what they do, but also in the way they think. Those companies will adopt social media in a later phase. Fabricom, Puratos, Van Marcke and Vandeputte s company cultures and philosophies still do not support social media for the full 100%. Contrary to IT, industrial companies assume that their target groups have limited interest in social media and therefore can postpone thorough activities since promotion through social media cannot catch intended attention if one s audience is absent. However, Van Marcke claims a presence is already necessary to reach influencers and the press who inspire stakeholders perceptions of companies. Industrial enterprises emphasise that sector-specific activities, providing IT with a technical advantage, determine social media adoption. However, IT companies and Van Marcke merely implicitly agree with the research hypothesis, explaining that acceptance depends on company cultures willing to integrate new media and on employees conviction of the benefits. 28

37 Ik denk dat verschillen in sociale media adoptie in een B2B sector minder gerelateerd zijn aan wat je als bedrijf doet. Ik denk dat het belangrijker is wie je bent als bedrijf: wat zijn je waarden en hoe ga je het invullen? (Thomas Verschueren, RealDolmen) I think differences in social media adoption within a B2B sector are less related to your business activity. I think the most important is what you are: what are your values and how are you going to flesh them out? Ik denk dat de organisatie er klaar voor moet zijn, los van welke industrie dat je zit [ ]. Maar het is ook step by step: onze mensen zijn er nog niet helemaal klaar voor. We komen uit een redelijke conservatieve industrie en de firma was ook redelijk conservatief. (Philippe Borremans, Van Marcke) I think the organisation must be ready for it, irrespective of the industry activity [ ]. However, it is also a step by step movement: our employees aren t ready yet. We operate in a more conservative industry and our firm was also more conservative. Demonstrating IT companies argument; Exertum has IT affinity but no employees convinced of social media benefits or willing to try them. Van Marcke, then again, developed extensive activities through hiring social media believer Philippe Borremans 5 who convinces his colleagues by gradually introducing those media. However, as IT respondents also agree industrial companies are more conservative, their vision on the research hypothesis amounts to sectorial differences in mind-set Social media relevance Respondents perceive social media equally useful for both sectors since their importance depends on appropriately deciding on goals and channels accordingly. Subject to objectives, social media s value is not confined to commercial benefits. Ik denk dat we er allemaal iets kunnen uithalen, maar ik denk dat iedereen voor zich moet kijken wat dan precies. Sociale media kunnen verschillende doelen hebben; ieder bedrijf moet zelf zijn doel vooropstellen. (Katrien Vanherck, Xylos) I believe we all can achieve some benefits from it, but I think everyone should consider them individually. Social media can have different goals; each company has to premise their own goal. Generally, respondents identify social media as important to keep up with market trends and competitors adopting those media. To compete, spreading messages parallel through traditional communication and social media becomes ever more important to draw attention. Similar to conclusions of Kerley (2010a), the majority of interviewees acknowledge that buyers increasingly share experiences with companies/products on social media. As only Internet Architects, NRB, RealDolmen and Xylos mention the importance of social media usage towards employees through public (Facebook) and/or internal platforms (Yammer), those media might be extra significant for IT companies, compared to industrial enterprises. IT values social media in stimulating internal collaboration and employee involvement in the company. 5 Philippe Borremans is Chief Social Media Officer at Van Marcke with 10 years of experience at IBM. As such, his visions often align more with those of IT respondents than those of industrial interviewees. 29

38 To conclude, social media are important for both sectors, but not yet perceived as essential by industrial companies. By investigating in the following section TAM (see part 3.1), we further explain IT companies lead on industrial enterprises and answer the first sub-question. 6.2 Social media attitudes Through analysing respectively risks, advantages and challenges, we nominate the variables explaining why B2B companies perceive social media as more useful than challenging. We conclude industrial companies struggle more: their management is still unconvinced and they additionally perceive negative comments as a risk Perceived usefulness Risks B2B companies recognise and experience few social media disadvantages or risks. Interviewees even believe social media absence involves greater risks because one is ill-informed of comments concerning their company, unable to respond appropriately, offline and/or online. Exertum is an exception, perceiving more risks than advantages. Although not supported by our quantitative research (see part 5.2.2), most IT and industrial interviewees believe own employees pose the greatest threat, becoming company spokespersons through social media. Their inappropriate and/or wrong messages could damage the corporate reputation. ABB, for example, already received stakeholder denouncements after an employee criticised a client on social media. Therefore, ABB, Certipost and Xylos organise employee coaching, and NRB and Vandeputte use policies concerning dos and don ts. Other threats to companies credibility are lack of commitment or being insufficiently prepared to provide quick and correct feedback and sufficient valuable content. Industrial companies perceive an extra risk, compared to IT enterprises (see below): Het is je reputatie die op het spel staat en het gaat redelijk snel. Sociale media zijn een vergrootglas van het negatieve. Je kunt zoveel positieve dingen hebben als je wil, maar uiteindelijk leest iedereen daar over. En als er iets negatiefs is, dan heeft iedereen het wel gezien. (Christophe Hardy, Puratos) Your reputation is on the line and everything changes quickly. Social media magnify the negative. You can have lots of positive aspects that no one reads. Negative aspects are seen by everyone. Je hebt mensen die zeggen dat negatieve kritiek een risico is. Ik zie dat eigenlijk niet als een risico, het is een opportuniteit om te tonen dat je volwassen genoeg bent om daar mee om te gaan. (Katrien Busschaert, Certipost) Some people state negative criticism is a risk. I don t see it as a risk; it is an opportunity to show you are mature enough to deal with it. Industrial respondents fear losing control over one s business communication as anyone can publicly post anything on social media. Puratos and Fabricom, having experienced criticism on their company, explain only damage control can prevent negative comments from further damaging the corporate 30

39 reputation. Although industrial companies believe critics can be turned around, negative comments remain for them a threat, contrary to IT. Van Marcke aligns with IT interviewees, claiming criticism received through social media is an opportunity to improve one s image, when handled appropriately. Benefits As expected from TAM (Davis et al., 1989), respondents acknowledge more advantages than disadvantages and each IT respondent enumerates more benefits than industrial interviewees. Conforming to our quantitative research (see part 5.2.2), larger communication reach is unanimously seen as the most important advantage, positively influencing brand awareness, image creation and recruiting through social media. Concerning brand awareness, interviewees opinions are summarised as follows: by creating publicity through social media, companies reach more and/or new target groups: e.g. the audience linked to company followers but not the company itself. Door je aanwezigheid krijg je wat likes en wat comments, die weliswaar nog voornamelijk van de eigen medewerkers komen. Maar dat vind ik juist belangrijk, de mensen die onze boodschappen liken, sharen of er iets mee doen [ ] zorgen er voor dat hun netwerk, al hun vrienden, dat gaan zien. (Bart Peeters, Fabricom). A presence yields some likes and comments, which indeed mostly come from own employees. However, I believe that is exactly what s important: those people that like, share or do something with our messages [ ] make sure that their network, all their friends, etc. see it. Furthermore, respondents assume social media create positive branding, reinforced when company messages spread virally. While Fabricom and RealDolmen presume those media provide companies a modern image, ABB thinks active enterprises are perceived as transparent. Some interviewees also claim sharing solid, business-related and/or technical information (e.g. white papers) among many people creates credibility and thought leadership 6. For IT companies thought leadership goes together with employee brand ambassadorship, and is therefore significantly more important for IT than industrial enterprises (see part 5.2.2). Claiming brain power is their most important asset, only IT respondents recognise social media s usefulness in demonstrating expertise through employees sharing company messages. For Xylos this even led to new projects. Larger communication reach also benefits companies like Fabricom, Internet Architects and RealDolmen who seek to recruit through social media. They emphasise social media s growing importance in employer branding to attract personnel due to lack of Belgian IT employees and engineers, as was also mentioned by Jonckheere (2012). 6 Thought leadership involves demonstrating the company s expertise by communicating big ideas on customer issues to prospects and clients in order to position the company as a trusted source. 31

40 Ook als B2B-bedrijf heb je er belang bij om via sociale media bekend te geraken bij het grote publiek, namelijk om er voor te zorgen dat mensen uw bedrijf kennen opdat ze er spontaan solliciteren of reageren op de job advertenties die je post. (Daniel Eycken, NRB). A B2B company also has an interest in getting itself well-known through social media among the general public to ensure people know the company, so they spontaneously apply or respond to posted job ads. Finally, respondents acknowledge customer interaction through social media yields many benefits, but contrary to the literature (Kerley, 2010a) and our quantitative research (see part 5.2.2), relationship building was not mentioned. Interviewees agree social media increase market insights through customer feedback they did not hear before, making it possible to respond/adapt accordingly. Believing enterprises depend on understanding clients needs, NRB, Puratos and Vandeputte want to take interactivity one step further. Conforming to the literature (GlobalSpec, 2011), they perceive social media as quick and relatively cheap means for ideation, i.e. collecting ideas leading to new products or improvements Perceived ease of use Complementary to US research (Paulsen, 2011) and our quantitative results (see part 5.2.2), respondents consider social media usage as something that speaks for itself, but are challenged by getting internally organised to handle those communications and systematically using those media in the communication mix. Het is ook allemaal niet zo moeilijk te gebruiken, maar wel wat er achter zit: wat wil ik er mee bereiken, levert het mij iets op, hoe gaan we er juist mee om en hoe zeggen we alles op de juiste manier? (Katrien Vanherck, Xylos) It is not so difficult in usage, but what about the rest: what do I want to achieve, does it pay off for me, how do we deal with it in the right way and how do we communicate correctly? De grootste uitdaging is de interne organisatie [ ]: kunnen we de communicatie aanhouden en omgaan met feedback? (Philippe Borremans, Van Marcke) The biggest challenge is the internal organisation [ ]: can we sustain this communication and deal with feedback? Interviewees believe business and commercial messages must be balanced to provide followers with added value and to keep them interested. However, they perceive this necessity of regularly delivering relevant and qualitative content, adapted to medium and audience, as extremely challenging. As social media require time and money investments, many respondents also struggle with shifting other communication means and allocating resources adequately so social media are sufficiently supported to monitor and handle customer feedback. Difficulties with ROI measurements (see part 6.4.3) even hinder ABB to get employees time committed and Certipost to determine time/money investments. Contrary to US research (Hosford, 2012), management resistance and difficulties in receiving enough resources appear sector-specific: because industrial management is often unconvinced of social media s benefits, they allot limited capital. 32

41 In sum, respondents generally believe that social media create benefits when handled correctly. What interviewees perceive as best practices, is analysed in the following section. Anyhow, it challenges enterprises as social media imply changing the communication mix and internal procedures. 6.3 Social media knowledge In this part we answer the second sub-question by examining respondents knowledge, linked to their ideas on best practices and social media s business value. Both IT and industrial respondents mostly think they have moderate understanding of social media, i.e. being in apprenticeship. Table 12 7 shows perceived knowledge is not sector-determined or linked to preliminary inquiries 8 into target groups social media usage. Contrary to the literature (Comprehensio, s.d.), one can be expert and successful without acquiring specific knowledge of how audience groups use social media. ABB, Fabricom and Puratos believe preliminary inquiries are useless when only limitedly using social media. Xylos explains it has too many target groups to subdivide and study in detail. Therefore, they adopt the most well-known channels. IT and industrial companies have divergent social media adoption rates, but similar knowledge. However, they interpret knowledge differently: while industrial interviewees link knowledge to practical insights and skilfulness, IT respondents refer to strategically understanding social media processes and opportunities. 7 The question if Exertum investigated how their target groups use social media was irrelevant as the interviewee already pronounced she believes Exertum s clients are absent on those media. 8 Preliminary inquiries involve desk and literature research or own company research among stakeholders to map audiences social media usage. 33

42 Ik denk dat we wel kunnen zeggen dat we expert zijn. Hetgene wat er achter zit, is wat voor mij bepaalt of je expert bent of niet: het nadenken over de juiste manieren om er mee om te gaan en doelgericht werken. (Katrien Vanherck, Xylos) I think we are experts. The reasoning behind their usage determines for me whether you are an expert or not: considering the right ways to deal with those media and adopting a goal-oriented working attitude. Ik heb te weinig kennis en ben in leerfase. Voor mij is het allemaal nieuw en we zijn er als bedrijf nog niet lang mee bezig. (Kathleen Wellens, Vandeputte) I have too little knowledge, I m in apprenticeship. It s all new for me, and we haven t been using it long enough as a company-whole. Industrial respondents assert that duration and extensiveness of their social media activities determine knowledge. Due to their recent social media presence, Fabricom, Puratos and Vandeputte describe that learning happens through practice Best practices Ik denk dat de beste praktijken voor een B2B-bedrijf op sociale media voor een stuk afhangen van je doelgroep: op welke media zitten zij en waarin zijn zij geïnteresseerd? En dat zal afhangen van bedrijf tot bedrijf. (Kathleen Wellens, Vandeputte) I think social media best practices for a B2B company depend partially on the target group: which media do they use and what is interesting to them? This will differ from company to company. Various success factors are mentioned as interviewees believe best practices depend on companies target groups and specificities like products/services. While Exertum, for example, believes in firm professionalism, Xylos emphasises its audience appreciates playful yet appropriate messages much more. To rightly provide target groups the wanted content, respondents do agree one first needs to understand their needs and ambitions. Irrespective of knowledge and sector, experts and respondents in apprenticeship mention similar universal success factors. Most interviewees believe best practices differ according to implementation phase. During preparation phase, companies must determine their goals and future activities. While scarcely present on social media, monitoring and exploring important topics for your business become necessary to secure content delivery and quick responses to comments. Certipost and Van Marcke emphasise monitoring remains a continuous process. When sufficiently familiar with social media, companies must actively engage in activities and conversations. Although an important challenge, several enterprises also perceive working content-wise as a success factor, i.e. providing information on specific themes that seizes customers attention. RealDolmen and Xylos underline companies must present their workforce as social media concern personalising corporate brands. Finally, unanimously agreed, companies should not outsource day-to-day social media communication as it involves one s client contact. 34

43 Sociale media zijn iets dat je zo dicht mogelijk bij het bedrijf moet houden. Het communiceren zelf zullen we nooit uitbesteden omdat onze authenticiteit daarvan afhangt. (Katrina Wright, ABB) Social media should be kept as close as possible to the company. Communicating in itself is something we will never outsource as our authenticity depends on it. While ABB, NRB and Van Marcke do not outsource external communication to keep it authentic, Certipost and Xylos believe they have the necessary knowledge to outperform external firms. However, several interviewees acknowledge companies can outsource actions not related to strategic day-to-day activities, e.g. marketing campaigns, content creation through ghost blogging and ROI measurements Social media effectiveness The majority of the respondents value social media for creating an inviting and personal image, influencing buyers and thus offline negotiations. However, similar to previous research (SpotONvision, 2012), interviewees doubt the extent of their effectiveness in sales and competitiveness. Because respondents struggle with ROI measurements (see part 6.4.3), perceived effectiveness is based on intuition; not determined by knowledge or business sector. Concerning lead generation and conversion, there are weak and strong believers, irrespective of already having gained customers through social media. ABB, Van Marcke and Xylos truly acquired clients thanks to those media, but ABB still believes much depends on coincidence. Als een bedrijf zegt wij hebben via sociale media onze omzet kunnen verhogen, vraag ik me toch steeds af of het puur door het sociale mediaverhaal komt of dat er nog andere factoren hebben meegespeeld. (Katrien Busschaert, Certipost) If a company claims we have increased our turnover through social media, I always wonder whether it is solely due to the social media story or whether other factors had an influence. Ik ben er van overtuigd dat door op bepaalde sociale media aanwezig te zijn en door ons beter online te positioneren, we een aantal extra klanten hebben binnengehaald. (Erik Verdeyen, Internet Architects) I m convinced we have gained new clients through a presence on several social media channels and a better online positioning. Weak believers are divided: ABB, Certipost, Puratos and Vandeputte await what the future holds, whereas Fabricom, NRB and RealDolmen believe social media s impact will remain limited. They stress their engagement in expensive projects/tenders implies peer-to-peer recommendations influence in purchase decisions will never surpass the importance of price. Strong believers Internet Architects, Van Marcke and Xylos confirm the literature (Kerley, 2010a) by proclaiming solid content sharing through social media instigates reliable word-of-mouth, reaching and convincing interested prospects. Regarding competitiveness, interviewees assume social media activities like sharing company values, positively influence corporate image, creating a competitive advantage against those competitors absent on social media. Market leaders Fabricom and Vandeputte differ, respectively expecting no 35

44 influence on competitiveness and reputation damage when not being the first on social media in its market. Generally, respondents agree active companies are more easily found by prospects. In summary, industrial enterprises align social media knowledge with becoming a natural in usage, but IT believes it involves understanding when, how and what to say to achieve predetermined goals. Our following section examines whether there are also dissimilarities in strategic usage of social media. 6.4 Social media strategy By evaluating goals and implementation strategies, this part answers our third sub-question: social media are used at the beginning of the business cycle to influence visibility and corporate reputation. Subsequently, we examine whether systematic social media use creates more concrete and measurable results. Respondents unanimously agree companies may not jump into social media without a plan because it secures a coherent social media presence by preventing contradictory messages. Interviewees perceptions come down to the idea that goals and KPI s must be put first to prevent aimless usage and to achieve benefits. However, Vandeputte and Puratos explain that those novelties necessarily impose trial & error because companies can only know by practice what works. Consistent with the literature (SpotONvision, 2011) and our quantitative research (see part 5.2.1), few companies actually work systematically, i.e. Certipost, Internet Architects, RealDolmen, Van Marcke and Xylos. Contrary to IT, most industrial companies adapt to their companies and audiences conservativeness by slowly integrating social media, figuring out a plan after experiencing what clients and/or management accept. Ik sta sterk achter een strategie opstellen en verkondig dat ook overal waar ik kom: je kan en mag daar niet aan beginnen voor je duidelijk weet wat je er uit wil halen en hoe. Wij hebben dan ook een duidelijke visie. (Thomas Verschueren, RealDolmen) I strongly support setting up a strategy and I proclaim it everywhere I go: you cannot and may not start with social media before clearly knowing what you want to achieve and how you want to achieve it. We thus have a clear vision. Het gaat heel veel testen zijn, trial & error naar de toekomst toe: we gaan proberen, we gaan zoeken, we gaan kijken wat werkt/wat werkt niet. [ ] het is leren door er mee bezig te zijn. (Christophe Hardy, Puratos) Future-wise, it will be a lot of testing, trial & error: we are going to try, look and see what works and what doesn t. [ ] it is a learning process by actually doing it. To know how social media fit their markets, industrial companies often establish pilot periods. ABB used an experimental year to discover the possibilities and will work more systematically after benefits are proven. Certipost also inserted a test phase, but immediately applied a basic plan to be able to allocate resources and work goal-directed. Generally, IT respondents are more inclined to work systematically straightaway as they believe those media s value cannot be estimated without clear objectives. Exertum and NRB have no strategy: 36

45 irrelevant for Exertum 9 and NRB plans to have one before expanding beyond their LinkedIn profile. Van Marcke aligns again with IT, using a full-scale plan since being active on social media Social media goals and integration in business Like the aforementioned benefits and quantitative research results (see part 5.2.1), interviewees especially want to influence their corporate image and brand awareness. Social media become necessary cost-efficient means to maintain market exposure as the young workforce and press increasingly use them. Since B2B clients are also B2C consumers, creating visibility concerning company offers in consumer markets is perceived as equally important. Respondents rarely purposefully implement social media as direct sales channels to prospects because they judge their commercial impact as limited. By getting in contact with journalists, employees, clients and applicants on social media, respondents hope prospects will find them more easily. Because lead generation is an implicit objective, it appears quantitatively only as the fifth most important goal (see part 5.2.1). Ik denk dat sociale media een impact kunnen hebben op verkoop, maar ik geloof nog meer dat je het in eerste plaats gebruikt om algemene naamsbekendheid te genereren. Via een aanwezigheid verlaag je wel de drempel voor prospecten om in contact te treden met het bedrijf. (Katrina Wright, ABB). I think social media can have an impact on sales, but I believe even more companies use it in the first place to generate general brand awareness. Through a presence you do lower the threshold for prospects to get in touch with the company. All companies apply social media at the beginning of the sales funnel, from buyer phases identifying needs to searching a supplier (see Kotler et al., 2010), believing social media s accessibility and spontaneity encourage first client/prospect contact. Voor mij zijn sociale media vrij oppervlakkig en dienen ze als een eerste kennismaking. Mensen gaan sowieso offline moeten verdergaan om een relatie op te bouwen met Certipost, alvorens onze oplossingen te kopen. (Katrien Busschaert, Certipost) Personally, I perceive social media as fairly superficial, serving as a first acquaintance. Before buying our solutions, people have to continue offline [in the sales funnel] to build a relationship with Certipost. As reported by the literature (Alejandro et al., 2011), many respondents believe social media use decreases as the buying process advances. The majority considers social media still incapable of creating client relationships because they instigate only occasionally conversations. Although this thesis explained social media is about interaction (Carson, 2010), and many interviewees aim to achieve customer dialogues, B2B professionals/buyers hold back in publicly expressing their attitudes. Therefore, it remains a monologue where companies push information. ABB and Certipost even perceive social media as inappropriate for relationship building. 9 As Exertum has no interest in creating an active social media presence, developing a social media strategy is not relevant. 37

46 Because respondents doubt social media s effectiveness/appropriateness in relationship building, none mentioned it as a social media goal (or advantage), contrary to our quantitative research (see part 5.2.1). Puratos, Van Marcke, Vandeputte and Xylos differ because they believe when face-to-face and social media communications co-exist, the latter strengthens company-client relationships. Met het idee van collaboration en co-creation in het achterhoofd kan je via sociale media de band met de klant veel sterker gaan maken en hen veel dichter bij het bedrijf gaan trekken door eigenlijk veel meer langs hun kant te gaan genereren. (Christophe Hardy, Puratos) Keeping in mind the idea of collaboration and co-creation, social media can strengthen the relationship with clients and bring them closer to the company by generating much more from their side. Finally, respondents confirm the literature (Nair & Sidhu, 2010) that social media goals highly depend on companies specificities. Only mentioned by Certipost, traffic building s second position in our quantitative research cannot be explained, contrary to recruiting s third position (see part 5.2.1). Many companies like Fabricom and RealDolmen struggle with open vacancies, so increasingly use social media for recruiting. RealDolmen and Xylos then have many employees working outdoors and apply social media to strengthen employee-employer relationships. Finally, although an important advantage, thought leadership is only a goal of Van Marcke Social media activities Irrespective of working systematically, IT and industrial B2B companies execute the same activities. Firstly, as respondents believe good content determines success, most activities are devoted to sharing press releases, white papers and information on projects, product launches, prizes won by employees, Some activities are explicitly sales supportive aimed at creating lead generation, e.g. adding a call-to-action to a shared white paper to contact/visit the company. Although respondents understand the relevance of adapting messages to audience groups, in practice many companies find it too difficult to subdivide target groups. They thus share general messages, intelligible to everyone. Only RealDolmen explicitly adapts information to medium and audience, e.g. through their expert and corporate blog. Secondly, ABB, Exertum, Fabricom, RealDolmen, Van Marcke and Xylos recruit through job postings and status updates on job events. Van Marcke (near future) and Xylos also create separate career pages on LinkedIn. Finally, Puratos, RealDolmen, Van Marcke and Xylos own blogs to display expertise and benefit from gaining thought leadership Measurement Respondents monitor negative/positive comments, competitors and followers in order to appropriately answer remarks and adapt to competitors behaviour, but actual ROI measurements are limited and restricted to quantitative metrics. In line with the literature (Marketo, 2010), interviewees struggle in finding the right metrics that measure if awareness led to leads, activities to competitive advantage, and content to added value for followers. Although this means it is difficult to attribute success solely to social media, it does not discourage their adoption. 38

47 Je zou van al je activiteiten het effect willen meten, maar het probleem is vinden hoe je het gaat aanpakken. Sommige dingen zoals campagnes kan je wel meten. Maar wat is daar de monetaire realiteit van? Wat zeggen die cijfers u op het vlak van imago? (Erik Verdeyen, Internet Architects). You want to measure the effect of all your activities, but the problem is how you are going to approach it. Some activities like campaigns can be measured. However, what is their business value? What is the effect on your corporate image? Dat is gewoon wat statistieken bijhouden om aan te tonen dat we het niet voor niets doen. Maar wat zouden we daar uit meten? Dat weet ik niet. (Bart Peeters, Fabricom) It comes down to just collecting statistics and nothing more. However, what are we measuring? I don t know. Most IT companies execute basic web analytics 10 because they are easy to apply, but remain troubled about those numbers interpretation, e.g. the monetary value of retweets. Industrial companies further minimise measuring because they believe it is not necessary provided their confined investment (in time and money) and activities. Similar to conclusions of the literature (Nair & Sidhu, 2010), some interviewees reckon they apply the wrong measurements and therefore only receive indications of social media s impact on sales and competitiveness. Only Van Marcke is confident about its ROI metrics: measuring yields by allocating monetary values to specific actions (e.g. retweets are worth 5 euros) and tracking effectiveness of callto-actions in shared content (e.g. white papers). Qualitative measuring seems even more difficult as it concerns analysing intangible aspects like perceptions and conversations tone of voice. Respondents wonder how branding and image creation can be objectively measured and translated into monetary value. By exception, Van Marcke executes top of mind research to measure thought leadership. 6.5 Conclusion B2B companies agreeing better communication ultimately leads to higher sales also recognise this requires social media in one s communication mix. As expected from UK research (Michaelidou et al., 2011), Belgian IT B2B companies are more motivated to use social media than industrial enterprises due to their innovativeness and technological affinity. We complement the literature by showing that especially target groups (non-)use of social media influences companies inclination. Contrary to US research (ThomasNet, 2011), Belgian industrial companies perceive their audience as absent on social media, believing they can still postpone profound social media activities. Hence, IT companies are more likely to materialise the benefits, i.e. increasing brand awareness and the probability of being found by prospects. Based on interviewees perceived benefits, we conclude companies communication mix becomes more effective through social media, especially when working according to a strategy which positively influences companies corporate image. However, we cannot objectively confirm IT companies strategic approach creates more tangible and measurable output because they perform similar activities and measurements to those working without a plan. 10 Web analytics measure the number of followers, retweets, mentions,... 39

48 In conclusion, respondent s future visions indicate sectorial differences will decrease: companies with a limited presence all plan to expand their social media activities. Het gaat meer en meer aandacht krijgen van CEO s in B2B sectoren. Het staat op elke CEO zijn agenda vandaag, ook in de heel conservatie industrie. (Philippe Borremans, Van Marcke) It will receive more and more attention from CEOs in B2B sectors. Today it s on every CEO s agenda, including the very conservative industry. Conforming to the literature (Kerley, 2010b), IT and industrial respondents believe social media in B2B companies will become more important as younger generations increasingly base buying decisions on online third-party feedback. However, interviewees agree B2B enterprises still need to take the necessary steps to materialise commercial benefits. 40

49 7 Discussion Because of limited academic research, this thesis project analysed social media attitudes, usage and strategies within B2B sectors. Following Michaelidou et al. (2011), we investigated the hypothesis B2B IT companies have been more inclined to use social media compared to B2B industrial companies, making the results from their social media activities more concrete and measurable. Quantitative and qualitative research show 85% of Belgian B2B companies use social media to preserve their influence on target groups at times markets and buying processes are changing, e.g. the increasing impact of online third-party feedback. IT companies are indeed more active in social media than industrial enterprises due to their innovativeness and technological affinity. Moreover, they are especially more motivated to adopt social media because they believe stakeholders expect IT to be on social media and they experience that their target groups already use those media. Industrial companies postpone thorough social media activities because their company cultures and markets are reticent towards those channels, hindering receiving enough resources from their management. Hence, industrial enterprises might miss new projects by staying blind to undiscovered target groups talking about subjects related to one s business, e.g. end users. Research regarding discussed topics on social media and their influence is relevant to investigate if industrial companies can truly put off those media. Generally, social media s strategic usage is found to be difficult: only 19% of Belgian B2B companies use a plan, falling well behind on the 28% of Dutch B2B enterprises (SpotONvision, 2011). While most industrial enterprises first discover by practice what works for their companies, IT operates significantly more according to plan. Although we expected IT companies systematic social media usage to be more effective, abstract interview data did not confirm a positive association between strategic approach and tangible output. Consequently, we consider only the first part of our hypothesis confirmed and raise the issue of non-measurable success, i.e. the difficulty to attribute success to one medium of the communication mix. Nevertheless, quantitative methods like desk research through monitoring tools are required to objectively confirm/refute that working systematically generates more concrete and measurable results. By questioning perceived usefulness and ease of use, we empirically proof TAM s applicability (Davis et al., 1989) on B2B companies concerning social media adoption. Social media interest those enterprises because they perceive few risks and multiple advantages. Generally, they are in apprenticeship on how to achieve the benefits from social media s larger communication reach, i.e. brand awareness and a positive reputation, only to be threatened by employees posting inappropriate messages. Industrial companies evaluate social media s usefulness lower than IT because they perceive the extra risk of negative comments. According to TAM, this further explains why industrial enterprises are less likely to adopt social media. Active companies use social media at the beginning of the sales funnel, creating market exposure to become more easily found and approached. As such, companies integrate social media as corporate communication tools, responding to how buyers employ them (see Base one, 2011), and hoping to indirectly increase sales. 41

50 Research limitations provide extra ground for new research. Firstly, low response rates might have influenced quantitative associations significance because many expected relations were not found, e.g. IT companies using social media longer than industrial enterprises. Moreover, because of a too small number of non-active companies, no statistical insights were gained in social media obstacles. We recommend new research to investigate the same variables with a larger sample to re-evaluate conclusions and receive generalizable explanations for not adopting social media. We assume that especially enterprises absent on social media refused to complete the questionnaire. Secondly, due to a too wide qualitative research purpose (i.e. three sub-questions) this analysis describes social media s complexity among B2B companies, but lacks clear understandings of relations between variables. Variation among interviews also negatively influenced comparability. This thesis was unable to provide established explanations for some of the quantitatively found differences between sectors 11. Future research should adopt a single focus on attitudes, knowledge or implementation strategies to complement this thesis with clear-cut insights and a more structured interviewing approach to ensure respondents receive the same questions in the same sequence. Thirdly, our quantitative research indicates differences in social media usage according to company size. As this was not further investigated, comparative research of small and large companies can expand existing theoretical insights. In conclusion, this thesis shows that social media usage became part of B2B companies communication mix, influencing company cultures, procedures and buying processes. We presume social media s adoption in B2B markets involves economic consequences, such as changes in communication investments, purchasing processes and client relationships. Future research into how social media affect business is thus of theoretical and socio-economic importance. 11 Quantitative relationships we could not explain through our interview data are not reported/re-mentioned in the qualitative analysis to increase its readability. 42

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54 B2B markets conversion into social media Multi-strategy analysis of social media use and attitudes in industrial and IT companies Appendices 46

55 9 Appendices 9.1 Appendix A: contact Beste, In het kader van mijn opleiding Meertalige Bedrijfscommunicatie aan de Universiteit Gent voer ik in samenwerking met mijn stagebedrijf Quadrant Communications een onderzoek naar het gebruik van sociale media door B2B-bedrijven. Met dit onderzoek wil ik inzicht geven in het reële gebruik ervan en in de motieven om sociale media al dan niet te hanteren. Mijn proefschrift zal inzicht verschaffen in hoe andere B2B-bedrijven sociale media gebruiken. Wilt u meewerken aan dit onderzoek om het gebruik van sociale media bij B2B-bedrijven in kaart te brengen? Vul dan deze enquête in. Het invullen ervan kan anoniem en neemt vijf minuten in beslag. Om de resultaten van het kwantitatief onderzoek te verkrijgen, volstaat het uw adres na te laten op het einde van de enquête. Indien u geïnteresseerd bent, kunt u ook deelnemen aan het vervolgonderzoek via een persoonlijk gesprek van driekwartier in de maand juni. Aarzel niet me te contacteren als u nog vragen hebt over de vragenlijst of over het onderzoek. Alvast bedankt voor uw medewerking, Céline Veldeman Studente Meertalige Bedrijfscommunicatie

56 9.2 Appendix B: online questionnaire Dag, Wat volgt is een vragenlijst in het kader van mijn onderzoeksproject naar het gebruik van sociale media door B2B-bedrijven. U kan kiezen om deze vragen al dan niet anoniem in te vullen. In elk geval bent u er op minder dan tien minuten mee klaar. Bedankt voor uw medewerking! Céline Veldeman Studente Meertalige Bedrijfscommunicatie Universiteit Gent GEBRUIK SOCIALE MEDIA (1) Gebruikt uw bedrijf sociale media voor commerciële of andere doeleinden? Onder sociale media verstaan we toepassingen zoals LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, wiki's en blogs. wordt niet tot de sociale media gerekend. a. Ja, we gebruiken sociale media in ons bedrijf, maar we volgen niet actief wat onze concurrenten en klanten doen op sociale media. b. Ja, we gebruiken sociale media in ons bedrijf en we volgen wat onze concurrenten en klanten er doen. c. Neen, we gebruiken geen sociale media voor ons bedrijf, maar we volgen wel wat onze concurrenten en klanten er doen. d. Neen, we gebruiken geen sociale media voor ons bedrijf en we volgen ook niet wat onze concurrenten en klanten er doen. Hebben a of b geantwoord op eerste vraag: (1A.1) Welke van de onderstaande sociale media gebruikt uw bedrijf momenteel? o een eigen blog o Facebook o Flickr o Foursquare o Google+ o LinkedIn o Scribd o SlideShare o Twitter o Wikipedia o YouTube o Andere: (1A.2) Welke stelling past het beste bij uw bedrijf? o We zijn aan het experimenteren met sociale media. o We zijn een strategie voor sociale media aan het implementeren. o De implementatie van de strategie is achter de rug en we zijn planmatig bezig. o Geen antwoord, weet niet. 48

57 (1A.3) Hoe lang gebruikt uw bedrijf al sociale media voor commerciële of andere doeleinden? o Minder dan zes maand o Minder dan twee jaar o Meer dan twee jaar (1A.4) Hoe vaak gebruikt uw bedrijf sociale media? o Meerdere malen per dag o Eén keer per dag o Meerdere keren per week o Eén keer per week o Meerdere keren per maand o Eén keer in de maand o Minder dan maandelijks o Geen antwoord, weet niet (1A.5) Wat zijn de belangrijkste redenen om sociale media te gebruiken (duid maximum 3 mogelijkheden aan)? o Verkoopkansen ontdekken (lead generation) o De bekendheid van ons bedrijf verhogen (brand awareness) o Monitoren om te zien welke conversaties gevoerd worden over ons bedrijf, onze producten en onze markt o We zijn actief omdat onze concurrenten het ook steeds meer doen o Nieuw personeel aanwerven o Relaties onderhouden met klanten en partners o Bezoekers aantrekken op onze website (traffic building) o Zoekmachineoptimalisatie (search engine optimization) o Andere: (1A.6) Wat zijn de belangrijkste voordelen voor uw bedrijf (duid maximum 3 mogelijkheden aan)? o Beter engagement met klanten (customer engagement) o Meer relaties opbouwen o Snelle feedback op onze bedrijfsprocessen en innovaties o Groter bereik van onze communicatie o Monitoring o Positionering als expert (thought leadership) o Lage kost o Geloofwaardigheid creëren bij partners, klanten en andere externen o Andere: (1A.7) Gaat u akkoord of niet akkoord met volgende stellingen (helemaal akkoord, akkoord, neutraal, niet akkoord, helemaal niet akkoord)? o Dankzij sociale media kan mijn bedrijf beter inspelen op ontwikkelingen in de markt. o De dialoog met klanten en prospecten zal beter verlopen door het gebruik van sociale media. o Sociale media kunnen mijn bedrijf helpen om snel informatie te delen met klanten, partners en andere externen. o Sociale media zijn eenvoudig te gebruiken. 49

58 o o o o o o o o Op sociale media geven we eigenlijk te veel bloot over ons bedrijf, waardoor concurrenten te veel inzicht krijgen. We proberen het te vermijden, maar sommige collega s plaatsen te veel onzin over ons bedrijf op sociale media. We proberen het te vermijden, maar sommige collega s plaatsen foutieve informatie over ons bedrijf op sociale media. De meeste B2B-bedrijven die sociale media gebruiken, doen dat zonder een duidelijke strategie. De meeste B2B-bedrijven die sociale media gebruiken, verkrijgen geen meetbare resultaten. Sociale media zijn een vast onderdeel geworden van het B2B verkoopproces. Wegens sociale media is het moeilijker om personeel aan ons bedrijf te binden. Het gebruik van sociale media vraagt weinig mentale inspanning. (1A.8) Hoe meet u de resultaten van uw activiteiten op sociale media? (= open vraag) Hebben c of d geantwoord op eerste vraag: (1B.1) Overweegt uw bedrijf om binnenkort actief sociale media te gebruiken? o Ja o Nee (1B.1A.1) Indien ja geantwoord Wanneer bent u van plan om sociale media te gaan gebruiken voor uw bedrijf? o Nog in 2012 o In de loop van 2013 o Later (1B.1A.2) Wat zijn de belangrijkste redenen om sociale media te gaan gebruiken (duid maximum 3 mogelijkheden aan)? o Verkoopkansen ontdekken (lead generation) o De bekendheid van ons bedrijf verhogen (brand awareness) o Monitoren om te zien welke conversaties gevoerd worden over ons bedrijf, onze producten en onze markt o We zijn actief omdat onze concurrenten het ook steeds meer doen o Nieuw personeel aanwerven o Relaties onderhouden met klanten en partners o Bezoekers aantrekken op onze website (traffic building) o Zoekmachineoptimalisatie (search engine optimization) o Andere: (1B.A.3) Gaat u akkoord of niet akkoord met volgende stellingen (helemaal akkoord, akkoord, neutraal, niet akkoord, helemaal niet akkoord)? o Dankzij sociale media zal mijn bedrijf beter kunnen inspelen op ontwikkelingen in de markt. o De dialoog met klanten en prospecten zal beter verlopen door het gebruik van sociale media. o Sociale media kunnen mijn bedrijf helpen om snel informatie te delen met klanten, partners en andere externen. o Sociale media zijn eenvoudig te gebruiken. 50

59 o o o o o o Op sociale media geven we eigenlijk te veel bloot over ons bedrijf, waardoor concurrenten te veel inzicht krijgen. We gaan het proberen te vermijden, maar sommige collega s plaatsen te veel onzin over ons bedrijf op sociale media De meeste B2B-bedrijven die sociale media gebruiken, doen dat zonder een duidelijke strategie. De meeste B2B-bedrijven die sociale media gebruiken, verkrijgen geen meetbare resultaten. Sociale media zijn een vast onderdeel geworden van het B2B verkoopproces. Het gebruik van sociale media vraagt weinig mentale inspanning. (1B.1B) Indien neen geantwoord Waarom gebruikt uw bedrijf geen sociale media? o Sociale media hebben geen toegevoegde waarde voor ons bedrijf. o Sociale media zijn geen eenvoudige kanalen om in te zetten en vragen grote tijdsinvestering. o Onze doelgroepen gebruiken deze media niet. o Het gebruik van sociale media zorgt alleen voor tijdverlies. o We hebben te weinig kennis om sociale media te gebruiken. o Het rendement van dergelijke activiteiten is niet na te gaan. o Er is te veel kans op wildgroei of foutieve informatieverspreiding. o We zijn nog aan het oriënteren hoe sociale media ons bedrijf kan helpen. o We hebben onvoldoende budget. o We willen persoonlijke informatie over medewerkers afschermen. o Sociale media zijn een hype, het is niet de moeite om erin te investeren. o Andere: PROFIEL (2) In welke afdeling werkt u? o Verkoop o Communicatie o Marketing o Personeelsbeheer o Onderzoek en ontwikkeling (R&D) o Algemene directie o Andere: (2.1) Welk is uw sector? o Informatica o Industrie o Andere: (2.2) Hoeveel medewerkers heeft uw bedrijf? o 1-9 o o o 251 en meer 51

60 KWALITATIEF VERVOLGONDERZOEK (3) Bent u bereid om mee te werken aan het kwalitatieve luik van dit onderzoek in juni 2012 (een persoonlijk gesprek van 45 minuten)? o Neen o Ja: mijn telefoonnummer is 52

61 9.3 Appendix C: interviewees Interview Date Company Interviewee Sector 1 06/06/2012 Internet Architects Erik Verdeyen IT 2 07/06/2012 NRB Daniel Eycken IT 3 08/06/2012 ABB Katrina Wright Industry 4 11/06/2012 RealDolmen Thomas Verschueren IT 5 11/06/2012 Puratos Christophe Hardy Industry 6 12/06/2012 Exertum Annick Beeterens IT 7 13/06/2012 Certipost Katrien Busschaert IT 8 15/06/2012 Van Marcke Philippe Borremans Industry 9 20/06/2012 Fabricom Bart Peeters Industry 10 21/06/2012 Vandeputte Kathleen Wellens Industry 11 28/06/2012 Xylos Katrien Vanherck IT The majority of the interviews were held within the respondents company buildings, with the exception of ABB and Fabricom. 53

62 9.4 Appendix D: interview guide Introductie 1. Waaraan denkt u bij het horen van het woord sociale media? 2. Kunnen B2B-bedrijven sociale media negeren? Waarom wel/waarom niet? 3. Wat is uw visie over volgende stelling: Sociale media zijn niet geschikt voor alle B2B-bedrijven. TOPIC 1: ATTITUDE 4. Welke voordelen bieden sociale media voor B2B-bedrijven; hoe kunnen bedrijven een competitief voordeel krijgen via sociale media? o Welke voordelen zoekt uw bedrijf via de sociale media-activiteiten? o Welke van deze voordelen/opportuniteiten heeft u al bereikt? Hoe heeft u dit succes gemeten? 5. Welke uitdagingen brengen sociale media met zich mee voor een B2B-bedrijf? o Welke uitdagingen heeft uw bedrijf al ondervonden? o Moeten bedrijven zich volgens een plan engageren in sociale media om deze uitdagingen aan te gaan? Waarom wel/ waarom niet? o Waarom gebruikt uw bedrijf (g)een plan? 6. Welke risico s zijn er verbonden aan een aanwezigheid op sociale media? o Moeten bedrijven voorzichtig zijn als zij zich engageren in sociale media? Waarom wel/ waarom niet? o Heeft u bedrijf reeds nadelige gevolgen ondervonden van de aanwezigheid op sociale media? 7. Welke impact hebben sociale media, volgens u, op het verkoopproces van B2B-bedrijven? o Welke veranderingen verwacht u (of heeft u al ondervonden) naar aanleiding van de aanwezigheid van uw bedrijf op sociale media? Welke impact heeft uw bedrijf zijn sociale media-activiteiten op uw verkoop? Hoe weet u dit? Welke impact heeft uw bedrijf zijn sociale media-activiteiten op uw positie tegenover concurrenten? Hoe weet u dit? 9. Hoe belangrijk is het om de effectiviteit van uw investeringen te meten? TOPIC 2: KENNIS 8. Wat zijn, volgens uw kennis, de beste praktijken op sociale media voor B2B-bedrijven? o Hoe moet een B2B technologisch/industrieel bedrijf de sociale mediawereld betreden om waarde te creëren? (Wat is de eerste stap?) 9. In welke categorie plaats u zichzelf betreffende de kennis die u heeft over de juiste inzet van sociale media? [Expert in leerfase voldoende kennis te weinig kennis] o Waarom plaats u zichzelf in de gekozen categorie? 54

63 10. Heeft u onderzoek gevoerd naar hoe uw doelgroepen sociale media gebruiken? Waarom/waarom niet? Als er onderzoek gedaan is: o Hoe heeft u dit onderzoek uitgevoerd? o Wat heeft u daaruit geleerd? 11. Wordt het beheer van sociale media uitbesteed? o Waarom wel / waarom niet? TOPIC 3: IMPLEMENTATIESTRATEGIEËN EN GEBRUIK 12. Welke doelen tracht uw bedrijf te bereiken via sociale media? Waarom? o Hoe verschillen deze doelen per sociaal mediakanaal? 13. Hoe implementeert uw bedrijf sociale media specifiek in het verkoopproces? o Hoe target uw bedrijf de doelgroepen op sociale media? o Hoe engageert uw bedrijf zich met de doelgroepen op een betekenisvolle manier? (Vb. aanbieden van informatie, trainingen, ondersteuning,...) Hoe verschilt de inzet volgens de diverse sociale mediakanalen? o Hoe helpen sociale media uw bedrijf in het verkoopproces? 14. Welke communicatiestrategieën hanteert uw bedrijf? Hiermee wordt bedoeld: o Getting the word out : het gebruik van sociale media als éénrichtingskanaal. o Het gebruik van sociale media als een feedbackkanaal (reactieve strategie). o Het proactief gebruiken van sociale media als tweerichtingskanaal: informatie posten, het stellen van vragen,... Verschilt de strategie per sociaal medium? 15. Wie wordt via deze sociale media bereikt (nl. wie zijn de volgers op jullie ingezette sociale media)? o Komt er veel reactie van de volgers op jullie sociale media-activiteiten? 16. Hoeveel volgers heeft uw bedrijf (= schatting)? o Hoeveel wilt u er bereiken (= doel)? o Is het aantal volgers voor u belangrijk? Waarom wel/ waarom niet? 17. Hoe meet u de effectiviteit (rendement) van uw sociale media-investeringen? [Kwantitatief Kwalitatief] o Waarom meet u (niet)? o Welke KPI s kan uw bedrijf kwantificeren en hoe? Wat vertellen deze kwantitatieve cijfers u? o Wat is uw mening over kwalitatieve metingen (percepties, toon van conversaties, )? Afsluiting Hoe belangrijk, denkt u, dat sociale media in de toekomst zullen zijn voor uw industrie en de naamsbekendheid van B2B-bedrijven? 55

64 9.5 Appendix E: codebook Theme Code Sub-code Explanation Attitudes Definition Perceptions of what social media stand for. Vision professionals Respondents ideas on the research hypothesis (i.e. IT companies are more advanced in social media than industrial B2B companies). Necessity Perceptions of the necessity of social media for different types of B2B companies (e.g. added value, social pressure,...). Relevance Ideas of social media s usefulness for different types of B2B companies. Perceived usefulness The degree to which B2B companies believe using social media will benefit their business. Risks Perceived general disadvantages and risks of a social media B2B presence. Company risks Perceived and/or encountered disadvantages of respondents own social media presence. Advantages Perceived general advantages of a social media B2B presence. Company advantages Advantages the interviewed companies encounter and seek through their social media activities. Perceived ease of use The degree to which B2B companies believe using social media would be free of effort. Challenges Encountered difficulties in organising one s own social media presence. Easiness Perceptions that social media are free of challenges. Strategy Ideas on working methods, i.e. the necessity of following a strategic plan versus trial & error. Business cycle Perceptions of when social media are most useful in the B2B buying cycle (e.g. need identification, supplier identification and selection, relationship building,...). Measurement Perceptions of social media metrics to measure the ROI (i.e. usefulness, informative value,...). Social media evolution Expected future of social media for B2B companies in general and for their own company. Knowledge Knowledge level How respondents estimate their own level of social media knowledge. Preliminary inquiry Effectuated preliminary investigations of how the target groups use social media. Success factors Knowledge of best practices and success factors in B2B social media usage. Outsourcing Reasons for (not) outsourcing social media. 56

65 Procedure Goals The interviewed companies social media goals. Target groups Target groups B2B companies reach and try to reach through social media. Communication strategy Ideas of the best communication strategy for B2B companies, and the strategy respondents use (i.e. monologue, feedback or interactivity). Application Presence How strong the interviewed companies are present on social media (early stage, limited presence,...). Working method Architecture of the applied social media working methods and their build-up. Activities Companies actions on social media (posts, status updates, campaigns,...). Monitoring Screening of social media for competitors, comments made regarding the company, Actual measurement The actual methods the interviewed companies use for measuring the ROI. Non-measurement Reasons for not measuring the ROI. Influence Perceived influence (negative or positive) of social media on businesses. Influence on sales Expected and/or achieved influence of a social media presence on sales and lead generation. Influence on competitiveness Expected and/or achieved influence of a social media presence on competitiveness. During the coding process through NVivo, we applied an inductive coding approach (Mortelmans, 2007). Throughout treating all interview data, an extensive codebook was drawn up, prior to analysis. After an open coding process, only those codes relevant in answering our three sub-questions and in providing explanations for the quantitative research conclusions were applied. The used codes are included in this appendix. 57

66 58

67 True internship QUADRANT COMMUNICATIONS Student: Céline Veldeman Coordinator: Tom Bruyer Trainee supervisor: Maaike Lens Ghent University Master in Multilingual Business Communication Academic Year

68 2

69 Table of contents 1 Introduction Quadrant Communications: more than just a PR bureau The PR sector Mission and vision Services & expertise Internship at Quadrant Communications Assignments Theoretical reflection Website development Copywriting & journalistic writing Meeting techniques Clippings Personal evaluation Internship evaluation Self-evaluation Conclusion Appendices

70 1 Introduction Being passionate about public relations, I looked for an internship within the PR consultancy. I also wanted to expand my experience in consumer PR to new domains, as well as improve my continuous point of action, i.e. writing skills. After contacting several agencies, Quadrant Communications was the first to reply my application letter. During the first interview on the 22 nd of November 2011 I decided to choose this bureau. Quadrant Communications is a small, but growing consultancy for technology companies, focussing on testimonials, internet copywriting, PR and social media. Quadrant Communications offers many services within business-to-business communication which have provided me with the opportunity to acquire new knowledge within a dynamic team. My enthusiasm for this internship was reinforced when they accepted to support my thesis project. The internship lasted 11 weeks, from the 24 th of April 2012 until the 6 th of July Based on previous internship experience within the consultancy sector, I expected working at Quadrant Communications would require independency and initiative. Curious to discover the difference between business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) PR, I believed my enthusiasm and eagerness to learn would be my most important strengths. This internship report first introduces Quadrant Communications, followed by an overview of my assignments and personal evaluation of the internship. 4

71 2 Quadrant Communications: more than just a PR bureau Quadrant Communications is an independent PR and communication agency located in Ghent and founded by Frank Van den Bossche in 2001 to serve technology companies. Today, nine senior and junior consultants, each in charge of several clients, still serve some of the first customers. Their most important clients are Cisco, Microsoft, ADM, Xylos and Citymesh. Recently they have also expanded to B2B industrial markets (e.g. Geldof) and B2C markets (e.g. TP Vision). During my internship, I specifically worked for Microsoft, TP Vision, Xylos and Ad Ultima. To counter small agencies disadvantage of a limited reputation, Quadrant Communications set up in 2011 the Benelux PR agency Check Twice 1, together with the Dutch agency MCS. 2.1 The PR sector Public relations identifies, establishes and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between organisations and stakeholders 2. The PR sector can be divided into internal PR, media PR, financial PR, investor relations, consumer PR, labour market PR and public affairs. Over the years, many agencies have been specialising in one or more types of public relations. Within the Belgian market many smaller agencies exist (e.g. Quadrant Communications, Leads United, Key Communications, ) and some larger bureaus (e.g. Interel, Lewis PR, Hill & Knowlton, ). Quadrant Communications is specialised in media PR, i.e. creating and maintaining strong media relations. However, it is their specific market orientation that distinguishes them from other bureaus. Not too many consultancies equally focus on B2B IT, technology and multimedia companies. 2.2 Mission and vision Companies that communicate better also perform better. 3 To clarify business goals and to achieve them more easily, Quadrant Communications advises companies to apply communication as a strategic tool. Through a goal-oriented approach, integrating all required actions and using credible tools, Quadrant Communications wants to help technology and industrial companies in their corporate communication to get more out of their communication budgets. Since people talk, stories need to be written. As firmly stated through their own slogan True Stories, according to Quadrant Communications, client testimonials are today s most powerful tools to support businesses. Through customer stories, Quadrant creates visibility, credibility and word-of-mouth for their clients. 2.3 Services & expertise To create an attractive image and mindshare among customers and stakeholders for their clients, Quadrant Communications offers strategic and operational support in press relations, marketing campaigns and corporate and sales communications. Since clients mostly have to make it happen 1 2 Walrave, M. (2010). Reclame, Sponsoring en Public Relations. Antwerp: University of Antwerp 3 5

72 themselves, multiple training sessions are also provided (e.g. in interviewing techniques and social media). Corporate communications Press relations e.g. financial reporting, corporate video e.g. press releases, press conferences Training Marketing campaigns Sales Communications e.g. folders & brochures, social media e.g. sales presentations, client testimonials Within the four services, Quadrant Communications main expertise lies within media relations, testimonials in text and video, internet copywriting and social media. Firstly, as consistent communication with the press is necessary to receive independent and reliable company reporting, Quadrant Communications assists clients in determining the most appropriate strategy for their press communication. They also bring client stories to the press in the right way (i.e. through press releases, interviews, ). Secondly, to create a powerful testimonial in video or text, explaining real IT user benefits, Quadrant Communications interviews (and/or films) their clients customers. Thirdly, as Internet is one of today s most important communication means, Quadrant Communications also offers internet copywriting, involving, among others, SEO copywriting and white papers. Client concepts are transformed into attractive textual compositions, according to the required internet writing style. Lastly, Quadrant Communications sets up with its client s social media programmes, starting by choosing the right tools to defining the clients core message. 3 Internship at Quadrant Communications 3.1 Assignments Although press communication and copywriting were the main assignments, a brief overview of the five main task groups is provided. Firstly, I received many editorial assignments such as writing pitches, case stories and testimonials. I pitched events for Ad Ultima and Microsoft, i.e. trying to convince journalists to attend a press event. I also wrote two blog posts about a V-ICT-OR (Vlaamse ICT Organisatie) seminar on content sharing. My largest assignments were the multiple testimonials I wrote for Microsoft, Xylos and essent.be. After face-to-face or telephonic interviews, I translated the technical explanations into convincing business stories. 6

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