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As shown in many of the latest Econsultancy reports, a growing number of B2B companies seem to have caught up with their B2C peers and are investing in social media.

However, when we decided to create a company-wide social media strategy in the summer of 2010 there were very few examples from which to draw inspiration. 

My company Gemalto, a digital security provider listed in Paris, had begun experimenting with social media communications on a project basis and got a taste for it.

However, we realised if we wanted to do it well we needed to look at it strategically. While every company has a different internal culture, target markets and social media maturity, I’ve identified the following five steps that can be applied to creating a B2B social media strategy:

  1. Take time to create a strategy.
  2. Map your audiences’ online media habits and identify your influencers.
  3. Share social media responsibility and train internally.
  4. Focus on the right social networks for you.
  5. Plan campaigns but don’t forget to be reactive.

1. Think before you speak

Think Before you Speak by NightRStarWhile it's a good idea to lock down your key social properties, don't start spurting out random stuff.

Spend some time working with the right people in your company to decide what your strategy should be.

We are a 10,000 person company and, while the strategy was led by a core team in the communications department, we involved around 40 people from all of our businesses and the final strategy was validated by our VP Marketing. 

Taking time to plan helps you link social media to your business’ objectives, channelling your actions and securing company-wide support.

The strategy creation process also entailed the creation of guidelines for tone of voice and brand reputation management, which both build coherence across diverse entities and help you work out how to address negative issues and any potential crisis.

If you have the resource, I recommend working with an agency to help develop the strategy; unless you are blessed with a hatful of in-house experts who have bags of time on their hands, an external specialist viewpoint and extra pair of hands can be priceless. 

2. Know your influencers and map your audiences’ online habits

Spend some time to find out who and where your influencers are and engage with them both online and in the real world. The subject of social influence is discussed in this post by Jake Hird.

As with all good web projects this starts with a bit of SEO, creating a keyword list that reflects the real world discussions around your issues, and not necessarily what your marketers think people “should” be searching for. 

We also mapped how our customers buy our products and do their business research. This helped us to choose our social properties and identify priorities.

For example, one market we address is the mobile telco space, whose employees tend to be social media-savvy and are ready to connect, therefore they became priority targets for our strategy.

On the other hand, at the time our banking and government customers didn’t have such ready access to social networks at the office, so these sectors became a secondary target and required a different approach.

This research also helped our social media venue strategy as we saw that most of our customers and prospects were on blogs, Twitter and LinkedIn rather than in Forums or on Facebook.

3. Share the load. Train people, support them and then train again

You've heard it many times before but social media cannot be "owned" by one department. We've led the process from Corporate Communications but we're helping to train hundreds of people around the company worldwide.

We’re giving them the skills and freedom to work autonomously within our guidelines. We've been surprised at, despite the hype, the fact that social media use is still at an early stage for many employees, and therefore we provide much-valued helpdesk-style support and refresher training programs on platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn.

A positive by-product of this is that now many employees have been impressed with how powerful many of the networks are for business research and have begun monitoring and using them daily. 

4. Be flexible but not too flexible

You need to be able to jump quickly on to the next Twitter or Google+ bandwagon when it comes along but don't forget the strategy and the fact that by sticking to it over time will deliver better returns.

We are focusing on a blog as the hub for all of our content and using Twitter and LinkedIn to promote the content and engage with influencers, partners, customers and prospects.

As mentioned earlier, we saw that few of our B2B customers were using Facebook for work. Although we didn’t go as far as Matt Owen’s blog recommended and “Ignore Facebook” but we have a more limited presence there.

Nothing will stop you registering on a new social network to protect your brand– but you don’t need to use it as a platform for engagement unless it’s appropriate to your audiences and overall strategy.

5. Plan campaigns but don't forget to be reactive

Having a good social media presence might be inexpensive in monetary terms, but costly in time, so therefore it is best to plan campaigns around a theme with multiple types of supporting content (posts, videos, infographics, white papers etc.).

A steady supply of planned content makes your job easier and in the medium to long term, it improves your findability and perceived expertise on specific subjects. What’s more, it gets groups of people from different teams, based in different countries working together towards the same objective.

So far we've done this for three of our key offers and we've seen good results in traffic and SEO for the related keywords.  

On the other hand you need to be speedy in reacting to the news whether it is good, bad or ugly and therefore we have designated people monitoring the airwaves for brand mentions, industry news and blog stories.

It’s important for our businesses to react quickly to stories that touch our industry, from iCloud and mobile payment to eHealthcare and fraud, and our content around topics in the news often attracts the most visitors.

Well, that’s my two centimes worth, and while I think there are things there that any B2B organisation can re-use, I’m far from being an expert and would be interested to hear your thoughts, disagreements, nuggets of wisdom and top tips.

Tim Cawsey

Published 3 January, 2012 by Tim Cawsey

Tim Cawsey is in charge of Branding & Corporate Publications at gemalto and a contributor to Econsultancy. He is currently completing his dissertation for the Econsultancy MSc in Digital Marketing Communications.

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Comments (13)

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Dave Downham

You forgot to add in:

0. Make sure that you have management buy-in right from the start. As interesting, stimulating and informative as your blogs/tweets/skiffles may be, the strategy needs agreement and input right from the top, otherwise it will be as successful as England's Rugby World Cup campaign.

almost 5 years ago

Tim Cawsey

Tim Cawsey, Head of Branding & Content at Gemalto

Hi Dave, I completely agree with your point and we did this as part of the first stage and have shared results frequently with the top management. In fact it was quite hard to cut my post down to 5 points. I like the analogy and being an English rugby player living in France was doubly hard during the RWC.

almost 5 years ago


J. Brandon

Good stuff, Tim. I particularly like "unless you are blessed with a hatful of in-house experts who have bags of time on their hands, an external specialist viewpoint and extra pair of hands can be priceless."

What's your opinion on a corporate voice compared to a personal voice, particularly on Twitter? Some strategists recommend tweeting from the brand account but identifying those individuals who actually write the tweets. On Facebook, some brands identify each status update with the name or initials of the individual author. Your thoughts?


almost 5 years ago


michelle carvill

Great to hear the viewpoint of a real working example of how a sizeable organisation engaged effectively with social media. Most businesses I meet have either jumped in head first without any thinking or planning - and are effectively using the channels ineffectively. Businesses are keen to 'engage' - but all too often without any understanding of where, how, what, who etc - and whilst more case studies are around now - it's still relatively fertile territory.

Research and 'listening' is fundamental to effective social media planning. So my five point plan is 1) Understand your businesses objectives and see how social can help you deliver those - showing a plan that delivers on the business objectives is more likely to get senior management buy in - as their is a clear path as to how you are thinking about leveraging the channels in a purposeful way 2) Research and listen - the channels enable you to uncover some real time findings and sentiment and key influencers, so use them to your advantage 3) Keywords are the dna to your online visibility - they are your online mantra - so absolutely, research them, know them, use them. 4) Measure what matters - there's an obsession with roi on social activity quite unlike any other marketing activity I've come across, however,remember that your activity should be focused on delivering business objectives - if number of likes or increased followers ties into those objectives, great - then that's a feasible metric. If not, be sure that you create trackable endpoints that enable you to measure what really matters effectively. 5) Ability to act, become agile - social is a bit of a long game - yes, you can get some quick wins, but learning to be a social business, engaging, listening, continually learning and developing is a big shift for organisations. The more open, willing and able to change, adapt and respond - the better. If a community of engaged people are advising you to change blue to purple - then how simple is it for your organisation to change to listen, respond and ultimately change things to purple?

almost 5 years ago

Tim Cawsey

Tim Cawsey, Head of Branding & Content at Gemalto

Hi J. Thanks for the comment. We discussed the possibility of putting names behind @Gemalto but decided that it wasn't necessary at this stage. There are 5 of us who can tweet from the account but felt that the news should be coming from Gemalto rather than promoting/highlighting the person. We may change this in the future though. However, we use our blog for the personal touch where each blogger is named with bio and photo as all of the posts contain a personal opinion.

almost 5 years ago

Tim Cawsey

Tim Cawsey, Head of Branding & Content at Gemalto

Hi Michelle, good points and I think the listening aspect and metrics are 2 important subjects I could have touched on. By building a strategy and putting in place guidelines we've learnt a lot about what people think about our brand (both positive and negative). Metrics is another massive area where you're right that there is no steadfast rule. They need to link to business objectives. We're mainly focussing on awareness so web traffic increases linked to campaigns is a good indicator but of course there are many more.

almost 5 years ago


Kevin Traynor

Excellent post Tim! (In the interests of being fully open and honest I should explain that Tim and I are old friends.)

Your recommendations would certainly echo my experience working both clientside and in agency environments when advising clients.

I would suggest that the amount of time spent on each stage can be tailored depending on the size of your organisation. In a previous role in a start up (albeit B2C) we went through all of the stages outlined above almost simultaneously and just got on with it!

I would also agree with Dave's comment about management buy in.

In my current role we have spent a lot of time (almost a year!) getting senior management buy in across all functions in the business and have developed our strategies (across several brands and segments) to ensure that when we kickstart our activity this year we're in really good shape.

almost 5 years ago


Lekan Adetifa, Head Online Acquisition at Moi

''Think Before You Speak'' should have been ''Listen Before You Speak''!

''You need to be able to jump quickly on to the next Twitter or Google+ bandwagon when it comes along''

Bad call and not a requirement for social success.

I love Josh Bernoff + Charlene Li's conclusion in 'Groundswell';

summarised with acronym POST, People Objective Strategy & Technology

Your statement seems to imply technology first! Jump on every fad (I get claiming your spot though)

The last point should be something like ''to be prepared to ENGAGE''

Actively join and be part of the discussion.

You can in-fact turn it on its head and inspire the/a discussion!

All other conclusions in order**

I note the use of the social technographic ladder to narrow down your core demographic.

I was part of the social media strategy/ execution at a B2C based company where our core demographic was obviously on Facebook -

all resources (small guns, big guns :)) were pointed at Facebook and by the last counts likes were well over the 100,000 mark!!

Facebook (and some others) are close to delivering the ''the effectiveness of earned media, at the scale and predictability of paid media''

almost 5 years ago

Tim Cawsey

Tim Cawsey, Head of Branding & Content at Gemalto

Hi Kevin, thanks for the comment and also good social media guidelines from you to avoid astro-turfing.

I completely agree with you on the speed depending on organisation type and Gemalto has over 10,000 employees in 45 countries with varying levels of social media knowledge which explains why it takes longer to do a good job.

We fell into social media in 2008 and a few of us have been learning, convincing, training and more since we saw the benefits. Beyond senior management, we also need the employee buy-in as we have thousands of internal experts who could use social media for listening, communicating and more.

It sounds like you're currently in a similar situation and I wish you all the best luck for the roll-out. See you soon hopefully.

almost 5 years ago

Tim Cawsey

Tim Cawsey, Head of Branding & Content at Gemalto

Olalekan, I agree with many of your points and I'm sure that Facebook is a great place to engage with the consumer market.

In our experience it doesn't work that well for us nor for B2B in general as a professional audience will be more likely to share a blog post for example via Twitter or LinkedIn than in Facebook (look at the numbers of shares per network next to this post).

I'm in full agreement about people and objectives and my point on platforms is mainly linked to the need to keep up with the trends to know if Twitter is going the way of Second Life for example. It is also a way of avoiding cyber-squatters and in fact we had this problem with the Gemalto Facebook page, which FB sorted out for us.

almost 5 years ago


Fiona Scott-Handley

There is so much potential available for B2B in Social Media, but vital that strategy comes before activation.(Imagine being able to activate live chat customer service function within Linkedin for your largest customer)!

One vital ingredient I always stipulate - start with the end in mind. In other words: know what success looks like for your business before you start the conversation.

Setting up a social presence is easy - sticking with it and keeping it on track so that it adds REAL value to your customers organisation is the hard bit, but ultimately is the 'bit' that will see you forge ahead of your competitors.

Know where you want to go, then go there.

almost 5 years ago

Tim Cawsey

Tim Cawsey, Head of Branding & Content at Gemalto

Great points Fiona. I particularly liked "know what success looks like for your business before you start the conversation" which is something we should apply to every project we work on (but somehow gets forgotten, often by the most important people).

almost 5 years ago

Rick Noel

Rick Noel, Digital Marketing Consultant at eBiz ROI, Inc.

Great post Tim. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I agree with Michelle about starting at business objectives, connecting to KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) such as fans, followers, likes, comments, shares, or even leads/sales. Measuring and tracking those KPIs over time is necessary so that some kind of ROI can be measured or at least estimated based on simplifying assumptions. Social media, whether owned, earned or paid, like all business investments, must be measurable and support business objectives necessary to earn senior management buy-in, both initially and for ongoing support. Otherwise, if a business gets on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+ solely because their competitors are there, then perception and results will suffer as they will often lack the goals, strategy, execution and ROI.

almost 5 years ago

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