B2B Markets' conversion into social media
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Multi-strategy analysis of social media use and attitudes in industrial and IT companies

Multi-strategy analysis of social media use and attitudes in industrial and IT companies

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B2B Markets' conversion into social media Document Transcript

  • 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 UniversityMaster in Multilingual Business Communication Academic Year 2011 – 2012 This research was executed in collaboration with 1
  • 2. i
  • 3. AcknowledgementsAs a thesis is never truly an individual project I like to hold on to tradition and start this thesis byexpressing 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 especiallythe interviewees for their extra time commitment.Secondly, my gratitude goes to my internship mentors Maaike Lens and Frank Van den Bossche foroffering me this research opportunity and providing me with the necessary resources and constructivefeedback, 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 theirinterest 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 onlyduring the writing process, but throughout this whole year. Moreover, a special word of thanks goes tomy parents for proofreading this document. ii
  • 4. AbstractWhile social media boom in B2C markets, many B2B companies have been reluctant in embracingthose media due to lack of successful role models. Some patterns of involvement by B2B enterprisesdo exist, but academic research into this phenomenon remains very limited. Through quantitative andqualitative research we investigate Belgian B2B professionals’ perception of social media and theiradoption degree. Based on UK research (Michaelidou, Siamagka, & Christodoulides, 2011), weexamine the hypothesis that IT B2B companies are more inclined to be active on social media thanindustrial enterprises, creating more concrete and measurable results. We surveyed 92 Belgian B2Bcompanies 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 throughcustomer feedback. Contrary to IT, industrial companies perceive negative comments as a great riskand struggle in convincing management and employees of social media’s benefits. This researchconfirms IT enterprises are more motivated to use social media than industrial companies as theirtarget 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 areproven. Irrespective of strategic approach or adoption rate, both sectors execute similar activities andmeasurements, indicating IT companies’ results are probably not more concrete and measurable.Word count: 11 474Key words: B2B - social media - corporate communication - perceived usefulness - perceived ease ofuse - knowledge - strategy iii
  • 5. Table of contentsList of figures ........................................................................................................................................... viList of tables............................................................................................................................................. viIntroduction .............................................................................................................................................. 1Part 1: Theoretical background1 | B2B defined ........................................................................................................................................ 3 1.1 | The corporate communication concept ........................................................................................ 3 1.2 | B2B markets................................................................................................................................. 3 1.3 | The industrial buying process ...................................................................................................... 4 1.3.1 | Buyer behaviour .................................................................................................................... 52 | The social media revolution ................................................................................................................ 6 2.1 | Definition social media ................................................................................................................. 6 2.2 | Penetration of social media.......................................................................................................... 73 | B2B and social media ......................................................................................................................... 7 3.1 | Technology Acceptance Model .................................................................................................... 7 3.2 | Disconnection B2B versus social media ...................................................................................... 9 3.2.1 | Obstacles to adoption.......................................................................................................... 10 3.2.2 | Benefits................................................................................................................................ 10 3.2.3 | Social media goals .............................................................................................................. 11Part 2: Method4 | Method .............................................................................................................................................. 13 4.1 | Research questions ................................................................................................................... 13 4.2 | Methodological approach ........................................................................................................... 13 4.2.1 | Research strategy and methods ......................................................................................... 13 4.2.2 | Sampling and data collection .............................................................................................. 14 4.2.3 | Analysis ............................................................................................................................... 15Part 3: Quantitative research results5 | Quantitative analysis ........................................................................................................................ 18 5.1 | Non-active companies ............................................................................................................... 19 5.2 | Active companies ....................................................................................................................... 19 5.2.1 | Social media approach ........................................................................................................ 20 5.2.2 | Technology Acceptance Model ........................................................................................... 22 5.2.3 | Social media metrics and measurement ............................................................................. 24 5.3 | Conclusion ................................................................................................................................. 25Part 4: Qualitative research results6 | Qualitative analysis ........................................................................................................................... 27 6.1 | Rationale for B2B to embrace social media ............................................................................... 27 6.1.1 | Social media’s necessity for B2B ........................................................................................ 27 iv
  • 6. 6.1.2 | Perception of the research hypothesis ................................................................................ 28 6.1.3 | Social media relevance ....................................................................................................... 29 6.2 | Social media attitudes ................................................................................................................ 30 6.2.1 | Perceived usefulness .......................................................................................................... 30 6.2.2 | Perceived ease of use ......................................................................................................... 32 6.3 | Social media knowledge ............................................................................................................ 33 6.3.1 | Best practices ...................................................................................................................... 34 6.3.2 | Social media effectiveness .................................................................................................. 35 6.4 | Social media strategy................................................................................................................. 36 6.4.1 | Social media goals and integration in business .................................................................. 37 6.4.2 | Social media activities ......................................................................................................... 38 6.4.3 | Measurement ...................................................................................................................... 38 6.5 | Conclusion ................................................................................................................................. 397 | Discussion ........................................................................................................................................ 418 | Bibliography ...................................................................................................................................... 439 | Appendices ....................................................................................................................................... 47 9.1 | Appendix A: contact e-mail ........................................................................................................ 47 9.2 | Appendix B: online questionnaire .............................................................................................. 48 9.3 | Appendix C: interviewees .......................................................................................................... 53 9.4 | Appendix D: interview guide ...................................................................................................... 54 9.5 | Appendix E: codebook ............................................................................................................... 56 v
  • 7. List of figuresFigure 1: Information sources used at any stage of the buying process ................................................. 5Figure 2: The Technology Acceptance Model ......................................................................................... 8Figure 3: Frequency of social media use by tech buyers ........................................................................ 9Figure 4: Social media use in B2B companies ...................................................................................... 18Figure 5: Time investment in social media ............................................................................................ 20Figure 6: Strategic approach to social media according to sector ........................................................ 20Figure 7: Social media goals according to sector.................................................................................. 21Figure 8: Perceived advantages according to sector ............................................................................ 23Figure 9: Perceived usefulness ............................................................................................................. 24Figure 10: Social media metrics ............................................................................................................ 25List of tablesTable 1: The B2B buying process ........................................................................................................... 4Table 2: Sampling frame industrial divisions ......................................................................................... 15Table 3: Industrial divisions present in the sample................................................................................ 18Table 4: Social media channels in use .................................................................................................. 19Table 5: Social media goals .................................................................................................................. 21Table 6: Industrial social media goals ................................................................................................... 22Table 7: IT social media goals ............................................................................................................... 22Table 8: Social media advantages ........................................................................................................ 22Table 9: Perceived advantages by industrial companies ...................................................................... 23Table 10: Perceived advantages by IT companies ............................................................................... 23Table 11: Social media presence interviewed companies .................................................................... 27Table 12: Social media knowledge interviewees ................................................................................... 33 vi
  • 8. “Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts.” (Cameron, 1963) vii
  • 9. IntroductionTalking 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 BelgianB2B companies. Through quantitative research we investigate if IT and industrial B2B companiesdiffer in social media adoption. Qualitative follow-up research explains differences and similaritiesbetween both sectors, by analysing perceived benefits and risks, social media knowledge andstrategies. stAlthough social media have been hyped since early 21 century, research into social media is verylimited and focuses mainly on B2C enterprises. There is a systematic lack of academic research intohow social media are used by B2B companies and can support business objectives. Moreover, mostexisting 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 throughquantitative and qualitative research, existing hiatuses are filled.This research contains academic and economic relevance. By applying the Technology AcceptanceModel on (B2B) companies, we provide new insights in its applicability on organisations rather thanpeople. Multi-strategy research offers a more reflexive analysis of reality, ensuring academicextensiveness in understudied research domains.Increasingly, companies use social media as business tools to gain potential profits, business leadsand sector relevance (Marketo, 2010). By focussing on IT and industrial B2B companies, weencompass 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 firstpart encompasses a theoretical framework on B2B markets, the social media revolution and B2B’ssocial 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 aredescribed. 1
  • 10. Part 1: Theoretical background 1 | B2B definedThe 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 ModelDisconnection B2B versus social media 2
  • 11. 1 | B2B defined1.1 | The corporate communication conceptSocial media have become part of many companies’ corporate communications. While some authorsdefine 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 toVan Riel, corporate communication involves all activities orchestrating a company’s communication,corporate design and employee behaviour to create a distinctive and appealing reputation amongstakeholders on which a company depends (Argenti, 1994; Gray & Balmer, 1998; Van Riel, 2001). Inother words, it is the management of communication, securing a company’s reputation, and thereby itscompetitiveness, productivity and financial success (Meredith, 2012). Improving reputation is thereforeonly 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 withpromotion, 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 andpreferences 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 targetpopulation is spending their attention time. After creating awareness, attention must be kept andaction triggered (Kotler, 2003). After creating corporate brand awareness, promotion/communicationserves conversation and relationship build-ups. Whether it then leads to buying, is another question.1.2 | B2B marketsB2B companies manufacture and sell products and services to organisations for their own use or tosell on to other businesses (Wright, 2004). B2B and B2C differ especially in their end consumer: B2Ccompanies transfer goods and/or services to individual consumers, whereas B2B markets concern theprocurement, logistics and administrative processes between firms (Gereffi, 2001). Other importantdifferences are the rather small number of buyers in B2B markets, but larger purchases. B2B buyingprocesses are also more complex because multiple people participate in purchase decisions (i.e. the 1decision making unit/DMU ), whereas in B2C often only one person decides (Kotler et al., 2010). TheDMU and complexity of most B2B products require multiple face-to-face negotiations and a closecollaboration 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 by1 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 distinctionremains artificial since purchase decisions are always made by people, influenced by personal needsand 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 orservices related to information technology (Investopedia, 2012; Mitchell, 2011).The industrial or secondary sector encompasses organisations that acquire goods and services forproduction 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 notstraightforward. According to the Europe-index, there are 23 industrial divisions, such as aeronautic,food, automotive, textile, … (European Commission, 2012). This research equally addressed a broadrange of manufacturing industries (see part 4.2.2).1.3 | The industrial buying processB2B or industrial buying is the decision process by companies concerning a particular supplier whensearching and evaluating products and services, earlier identified as a need (Geuens, 2011). Thereexist three kinds of B2B purchases. First, the straight re-buy, implying repeated purchases of productsand services from an existing supplier (Callebaut, 2011). Second, during a modified re-buy, purchaseelements are changed -such as price and delivery period- making the process more difficult thanstraight 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 B2Bpurchases entail eight phases, but when straight re-buys or modified re-buys occur, several phasescan be left out (Kotler et al., 2010).The buying process starts with the comprehension of a company’s need for certain products orservices. Once known, the buyer specifies the requested product characteristics and quantity. In athird 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 isnegotiated, i.e. the number and technical characteristics. After the purchase, the supplier’sperformance is continuously evaluated (Callebaut, 2011).Although this process is typically put forward as B2B procurement, it also occurs within B2C marketswhen buying investment goods like cars and real estate. Whereas buying from IT or industrial B2Bcompanies predominantly implies multi-stage sales funnels due to complex and expensive productsand/or services, straight re-buys seldom involve comparisons of suppliers and negotiations. They aretherefore similar to regular B2C buying (Kotler et al., 2010).1.3.1 | Buyer behaviourSocial media have changed buyer behaviour over the last few years: buyers control their informationsearches when using social media to solicit advice from friends, colleagues and communities (Baseone, 2011; Hamakers, 2011). Information sources used at any stage of the process Other social media Twitter Totals LinkedIn Any traditional online 88% Blogs Any offline 74% Any new online/social media 40% Facebook Offline events/seminars Online events/webinars Press advertising Direct mail Word-of-mouth E-mails from suppliers Industry press (print) Web searches Supplier websites 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% New online/social media Offline Traditional onlineFigure 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 (Baseone, 2011). Physical events remain, however, important in B2B buying. The more complex a purchasedecision, 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 informationsearches. Purchasers also actively look for trustworthy information on social media to identify potentialpartners. Social media based product and/or service information are perceived as more reliable thancompany 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: needidentification, supplier identification and selection (Base one, 2011). Although supplier websites andweb searches are the single most used sources for identification of one’s needs, still 31% of B2Bpurchasers apply social media (Base one, 2011). When buyers move onto identifying potentialsuppliers, a similar media pattern occurs: traditional online media are used most, followed by 30% ofthe buyers using social media. Buyersphere research (2011) shows Belgian social media usage in thisstage falls far below that of German and British purchasers.Furthermore, only 25% of purchasers use social media for the collection of offers and supplier choicebecause personal information sources become more important as the buying process advances(Alejandro et al., 2011). When true dialogue between partners occurs, buyer-seller relationships arebeing 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 inrelationship 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 thetop five of most influential information sources (Base one, 2011). Facebook has the least weight inB2B markets. These tools are not yet as decisive in B2B markets as in B2C buying (Hamakers, 2011).Traditional online channels such as e-mail, web searches and supplier websites remain moreinfluential. Industrial buyers use, nevertheless, many information sources, demanding companies toconsider a mix of communication instruments (Alejandro et al., 2011; Mangold & Faulds, 2009). Socialmedia are part of this mix and have therefore an undeniable importance in buying processes.2 | The social media revolutionAlthough the term social media is widely used nowadays, perceptions of its meaning significantlydiffer. 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 onecannot 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 andinteractions occur (Marketo, 2010; Postman, 2009). Most authors share the same view-point, but differin focus: Boyd (2009) describes it as social software, whereas Haenlein and Kaplan (2010) refer to thetechnical Web 2.0 principle, characterised by user-generated-content. Social media definitionsaddressing user-generated-content often imply the revolution those media caused in informationcreating 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 mediaB2B marketers are pressured to create a social media presence since many sources claim thosemedia’s necessity within B2B contexts (GlobalSpec, 2011; Kerley, 2010a; Marketo, 2010). There is alack of Belgian figures, but quantitative US, Dutch and UK research demonstrate social media usageis 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 B2Bbrands (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 mediaunimportant (SpotONvision, 2012).Forrester research (in Marketo, 2010) estimated in 2009 that 77% of US B2B IT companies wereactive 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 determinesocial media adoption: innovative enterprises are more inclined to use social media (Michaelidou etal., 2011). This could explain IT has a higher social media presence than industrial B2B companies.3 | B2B and social media3.1 | Technology Acceptance ModelThe Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) by Davis (1989) was developed to predict who is mostlikely to accept new technologies at work. Recent inquiries show that TAM can explain intentions touse social media technologies (Dieteren, 2011; Willis, 2008). Through TAM, we can examine reasonsbehind the possible differences in the social media adoption rate between IT and industrial B2Benterprises. 7
  • 16. This TAM figure explains the usage of technology by two determinants: perceived usefulness (U) andperceived ease of use (EOU). U is “the degree to which a person believes using a particular systemwould enhance his/her job performance”, while EOU is “the degree to which a person believes using aparticular system would be free of effort" (Davis, Bagozzi, & Warshaw, 1989). Two mechanismsdetermine the EOU, namely self-efficacy and instrumentality. The more a person believes thetechnology is easy to use, the more he/she feels confident and in control to start using it. The moreuser-friendly the technology, the higher its utility, meaning EOU also directly influences perceivedusefulness (Verdegem, 2010).Actual behaviour is determined by behavioural intent, which is based on an individual’s attitudetowards the technology and, simultaneously, perceived user benefit (De Marez, 2006). Althoughhaving a negative attitude towards social media, he/she might still adopt them when positive benefitsare expected.In sum, TAM can explain both behavioural intention and actual use of a technology. These technologyacceptance indicators are conceptually different since intention is influenced by attitudes and onlyqualitative measurable and actual use is a quantifiable action (Willis, 2008). However, for mostapplications technology acceptance is similar to intention, i.e. one can infer technology acceptancewhen respondents demonstrate intention to use it (Willis, 2008).This model shows its robustness by its use in many researches to explain the acceptance of e-mail(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 explaincompanies’ acceptance of social media. We expect the same logic, since employees’ perceptionssignificantly influence company behaviour. We assume enterprises are more willing to adopt socialmedia when these are easy to use, i.e. require little investment in time and money. In this researchsetting social media usefulness is also determined by social pressure & presence, the risk of sharing(personal) information and their effectiveness in improving companies’ communication andrelationship building (Dieteren, 2011). 8
  • 17. 3.2 | Disconnection B2B versus social mediaDue to scarce academic research on social media in B2B, information within this section is acquiredthrough articles, blogs and quasi-scientific surveys by practitioners. Contrary to B2B, one easily findshundreds of B2C social media success stories. While 65% of US B2B companies find social media tobe very important for their business, only 8% is reaping the benefits (Thomas, 2011). Similarly, manyDutch (28%) and UK (30%) B2B companies, active in social media, work without a strategy, missingout on several opportunities (SpotONvision, 2011).Even though B2B social media presence is increasing, it still falls behind on B2C because many arenot truly convinced about their effectiveness. Prejudices are also strongly present: B2B companiesbelieve that social media do not fit their industry, are not used by their audience and cannot serverelationship building (SpotONvision, 2011, 2012). Not less than 32% of Dutch B2B companies do nothave 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 arenot using it (49%) and the lack of business value (34%) (Semplice, 2012). The same goes for ITcompanies: “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 mediaknowledge, followed by lack of time and other priorities (Thomas, 2011). More than 80% of B2B UScompanies find social media very challenging; showing the necessity of more knowledge, resourcesand confidence (Paulsen, 2011).Yet, as mentioned before, their buyers already use social media assearch engines in decision making processes. US studies prove that both IT and industrial buyers usethose 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 significantnumber does. 63% of industrial buyers use social media once a week: 25% of them use LinkedIn toresource industrial products/services and 21% to research potential partners (ThomasNet, 2011). Notless than 59% engages with peers and 48% follows sector conversations (Kerley, 2010a, 2010b).3.2.1 | Obstacles to adoptionBesides the conviction of a non-fit between B2B and social media, B2B often lacks key factors tosuccessfully adopt those media (Comprehensio, s.d.).Firstly, while a (semi-)dedicated person/team is necessary, communication employees within B2Bcompanies are often limited. For US B2B companies, lack of resources is the most importantimplementation obstacle (Hosford, 2012).Secondly, insights in how target audiences use social media are required for a successfulimplementation. As these companies’ competitive advantage is based on expertise and not on clientknowledge, 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 B2Bcompanies, due to lack of resources, knowledge and success metrics (Hosford, 2012). Managementoften sees social media as a cost rather than an investment, blocking within 35% of the companiessocial media access (GlobalSpec, 2011).Lastly, many B2B marketers feel they -and their customers- are not ready for social media becausetheir company culture is not open minded towards participation and dialogue. They still doubt themeaning 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 offollowers are deterred from finding value in social media and are therefore hesitant to implement. B2Btarget markets often are smaller than B2C audiences, requiring other goals and measurement (Nair &Sidhu, 2010).3.2.2 | BenefitsSince prospects now rely on social media to educate themselves before contacting a company, B2Bcompanies miss out on potential profits, business leads and sector relevance when they are not activeon social media (Marketo, 2010). Many sources claim the necessity of B2B social media presence toreap the benefits.Social media provide engagement in conversations with current and prospective buyers, enhancingcorporate image and awareness which can be used to stimulate lead generation. B2B transactionsrely 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 professionalrelationships (Radian6, 2010).B2B products are often complex and difficult, so knowledge sharing and problem solving within onlinenetworks can be true assets. According to US research, buyers mainly use social media forknowledge acquisition and Questions & Answers (Kerley, 2010b). Through online social informationexchange 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 internetsearches (Hosford, 2012; Radian6, 2010).Third-party feedback, often present on social media, plays a central role in B2B purchase decisions. Agood 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 collaborationfrom 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 theirpersonality and workforce. The more people like your company, the more fans/followers are inclined tobecome a client and recommend the enterprise to others (Radian6, 2010).3.2.3 | Social media goalsOnce convinced, companies determine their social media goals which must be aligned towardsbusiness goals to retrieve value from it (Jensen, 2010). Since every company is different -has differentgoals, customers, cultures and budgets- each enterprise needs to find the right formula for its specificbusiness (Nair & Sidhu, 2010). Because social media goals depend on companies’ industry, targetgroups and resources, research results often differ from one another. While some researchers claimstaying up to date with industry news is the most important objective (GlobalSpec, 2011), otherspretend it is engagement (SpotONvision, 2012).Regarding international research results, US, UK and Dutch companies vary in their social mediaobjectives. According to US research from Penton Marketing, increasing awareness and brandbuilding are the most essential objectives, followed by customer engagement and increasing webtraffic (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 forsocial media adoption: 91% of UK B2B companies use social media to attract new customers, buildcustomer relationships (86%) and increase brand awareness (73%) (Michaelidou et al., 2011). 11
  • 20. Part 2: Method 4 | Method Research questionsMethodological approach 12
  • 21. 4 | Method4.1 | Research questionsSuccess stories about effective (commercial) social media usage by B2B companies are scarce: B2Benterprises have been reluctant in fully embracing social media, and often lack a strategy tomaterialise benefits (Veldwijk, 2011). This research attempts to explain this behaviour. Because ofuser 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 haveestablished 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 andeffectiveness. 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 regardingknowledge, attitudes and implementation strategies.4.2 | Methodological approach4.2.1 | Research strategy and methodsThis thesis applies multi-strategy research or triangulation by integrating qualitative and quantitativestudies (Bryman, 2004). To create diversified insights, we quantitatively investigate associationsbetween variables, followed by qualitative research to explain those relationships. Qualitativerespondents 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 usagewithin B2B companies through a descriptive large scale quantitative study. Quantitative research cantest 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 andgoals, 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 arecollected at one moment, we cannot determine causal directions of possible relationships, i.e. wecannot objectively state that the company’s sector influences social media adoption/use. This researchis therefore low in internal validity (Bryman, 2004). Our qualitative data then explain possible causesfor found relationships. Other disadvantages are: missing data, partially answered questions, and lowresponse 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 researcher-respondent distance do provide objective research data (Bryman, 2004).Through semi-structured interviews we complement the rigid quantitative output by reconstructing non-observable aspects. Contrary to quantitative objectivity, interview research subjectively co-createsmeaning. 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 interviewerbehaviour during the interviews may impact the outcome. Since the interviewer is the most importantresearch instrument, it is difficult to formalise this research. Each interview is characterised by adifferent context and phrasing of questions (DHoest, 2010). We nevertheless increase replicability byspecifying the applied procedures and tools, and we decrease interviewer effects through pre-determined questions (Mortelmans, 2007). A semi-structured interview implies standardised questionsand formulation, but neither answer possibilities nor a strict sequence (Boeije, 2005; DHoest, 2010).The small number of interviewees makes it impossible to generalise research results. Through thickdescription (rich descriptions composed of facts, commentary and interpretation) we extract meaningstructures that allow readers to judge whether results are transferable to other contexts (Geertz, 1973;Mortelmans, 2007).4.2.2 | Sampling and data collectionThis research applied purposive sampling methods, i.e. respondents are chosen based on theirtheoretical contribution (DHoest, 2010).Within the survey research we first executed a judgement sampling: a number of conditions had to befulfilled before a respondent could participate (De Pelsmacker & Van Kenhove, 2010). Based upon thecriteria ‘Belgian industrial or IT B2B company’, 499 enterprises were selected from the BEMAS 2 thmember’s list and Data News ICT Guide. They received the 15 of May 2012 an e-mail invitation toparticipate (see appendix A). We contacted 374 IT companies, specialised in informatics, software andweb services and 125 industrial enterprises from the following divisions:2 BEMAS is the Belgian Maintenance Association vzw-asbl; www.bemas.org. 14
  • 23. thBecause of low response rates, we sent a reminder the 24 of May 2012, and applied a secondscreened 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 containsclosed-ended questions with multiple answer possibilities and five-point Likert scales (see appendixB).Interview respondents were selected through a convenience sample. Within the questionnaire weasked participants whether they were prepared to take part in an interview (De Pelsmacker & VanKenhove, 2010). Willing companies were contacted through e-mail. The sample consists of 11respondents (see appendix C). The interviews were held face-to-face in Dutch, since they achieve thehighest quality (DHoest, 2010). The semi-structured interview guide deepens insights in social mediaattitudes and use, adding the topic knowledge (see appendix D).4.2.3 | AnalysisThe quantitative data were analysed through SPSS. We used frequency tables to analyse nominaland 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 univariatedata analyses. We carried out Chi-square tests for nominal data and T-tests for scale data. Onlyrelevant 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. Relevancerefers to the strength of significant associations, calculated through statistical measurements Cramer’sV in case of Chi-square test and Eta in case of T-tests. The closer the value to 1, the stronger thestrength of association; a value higher than 0,2 signifies relevant associations (De Pelsmacker & VanKenhove, 2010; Van den Bosch, 2009).The qualitative data are analysed through NVivo: we reduce the data through thematic coding andthen 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 analysisFrom the 140 respondents, 80,7% completed the questionnaire. 48 participants had to be removedfrom analysis due to inconsistency with our definitions of industrial and IT B2B companies. Thisminimises 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: companysize 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 to9 employees and 28,3% employing between 10 and 49 people); 27,2% medium-sized enterprises (50to 250 employees), and 22,8% large companies (engaging more than 250 employees). Social media use 5,4% Yes, we use social media, but do not monitor competitors 8,7% Yes, we use social media and 41,3% monitor competitors No, we do not actively use social media but do monitor 44,6% No, we do not actively use social media and do not monitorFigure 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 companiesTen industrial and three IT companies are not active on social media. While five industrial enterprisesplan a social media presence, three companies are in doubt, four claim they will never use socialmedia and one did not answer the question. Because of the low number of non-users we cannot makestatistical conclusions on their motives for not being active. It equally comes down to reasons as socialmedia are a waste of time, are too difficult, lack added value, and increase the risk of publishing wronginformation.5.2 | Active companiesLinkedIn, 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 mediapresence 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 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% 30% 35% 40% 45%Figure 5: Time investment in social mediaIndustrial and IT enterprises are regularly using social media: 41,8% applies them multiple times aday. Still 30,4% only uses them a few times a week.5.2.1 | Social media approachSimilar to previous research (e.g. SpotONvision, 2011) very few companies have a social mediastrategy: 19% of B2B companies use a plan, 35,4% is implementing their strategy, 41,8% is justexperimenting, and 3,8% of the respondents have no idea (this number is not pictured in figure 6). ITcompanies are most advanced in their strategic approach. Strategic approach to social media 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% We are implementing a We operate with a We are experimenting strategy strategic plan IT 32,7% 40,8% 26,5% Industry 56,7% 26,7% 6,7%Figure 6: Strategic approach to social media according to sector 20
  • 29. Results indicate industrial companies are significantly more experimenting with social media, without aplan (p= 0,006; Cramer’s V= 0,396). Additionally, it is generally believed that B2B companies actwithout strategy. 40% of the respondents (highly) agree with the following premise: “De meeste B2B-bedrijven 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 goal. Traffic building and recruiting own the second and 3 third position.However, contrary to UK and US literature (Michaelidou et al., 2011; Paulsen, 2011), relationshipbuilding and lead generation appear less important for Belgian B2B enterprises. Though, the smallerthe company, the more social media are used for lead generation (p= 0,023; Cramer’s V= 0,322). Social media goals Recruiting 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% Brand awareness 30% Relationship building 20% 10% 0% Traffic building Lead generation Industrial companies IT companiesFigure 7: Social media goals according to sector3 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 importantfor 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, theyrepresent neither significant nor relevant dissimilarities.5.2.2 | Technology Acceptance ModelTo 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 perceivedusefulness.Perceived usefulnessB2B companies consider socialmedia as communication means.Through a larger communicationreach, brand awareness can moreeasily be reached. Relationshipbuilding is the second mostimportant advantage. Displayingexpertise to as many people as 4possible comes in third.Furthermore, research results show the smaller the company, the more one sees relationship buildingas 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 Larger communication reach 80% 70% Feedback from target 60% Relationship building groups 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% Customer engagement 0% Low cost Monitoring Thought leadership Credibility Industrial companies IT companiesFigure 8: Perceived advantages according to sectorAs can be seen from the figure, IT companies perceive thought leadership, larger communicationreach and customer engagement significantly more often as social media advantages than industrialenterprises (p< 0,05; Cramer’s V> 0,25). 32,5% of industrial companies consider low cost as animportant advantage, which is significantly higher than the 11,5% of IT companies (p= 0,014; Cramer’sV= 0,257).The advantages B2B companies seek, strongly differ between sectors: low cost is only the sixth mostimportant 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 andrisks. Respondents do not agree on the suggested negative side-effects, i.e. difficulties in employerbonding, 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 4,32 externen.” “De dialoog met klanten en prospecten zal beter 3,43 verlopen door het gebruik van sociale media.” “Dankzij sociale media kan mijn bedrijf beter inspelen 3,37 op ontwikkelingen in de markt.” 0 1 2 3 4 5 MeanFigure 9: Perceived usefulness (based on calculated means)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 toagree with the other two statements, but respectively 26% and 31% of the respondents hold a neutralopinion.Perceived ease of usePractical 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).5.2.3 | Social media metrics and measurementB2B companies remain in doubt concerning ROI measurements. 29% of the respondents pronounce aneutral opinion on the premise “De meeste B2B-bedrijven die sociale media gebruiken, verkrijgengeen meetbare resultaten.” (mean= 3,30) 24
  • 33. Through an open-ended question, respondents were invited to provide more information on theirmeasurement metrics. - 68 respondents replied: 50 companies measure their ROI. - 5 respondents only measure qualitatively, i.e. evaluating perceptions through content tracking or feedback from clients. - 45 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 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 Number of mentionsFigure 10: Social media metrics5.3 | ConclusionThe quantitative results confirm our hypothesis that Belgian IT B2B companies are more inclined touse 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 moreconcrete 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 alreadyon social media. Through the interviews, we try to provide more insight in possible explanations forthis conclusion: we seek to understand B2B attitudes in general and differences & similarities betweenindustrial and IT B2B companies. 25
  • 34. Part 4: Qualitative research results 6 | Qualitative analysisRationale for B2B to embrace social media Social media attitudes Social media knowledge Social media strategy Conclusion 26
  • 35. 6 | Qualitative analysisWhen 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 changingbusiness mentality, leading to new communication practices involving direct client contact.To rightly interpret research conclusions, the interviewed companies’ social media presence (June2012) is marked in four groups. Exertum does not find its clients on social media and will not expandbeyond 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 mediaThis part demonstrates social media are relevant and necessary for B2B companies to respond tochanging market trends and buying behaviours. Industrial enterprises are less motivated to use socialmedia than IT, lacking technological affinity and target groups who use social media.6.1.1 | Social media’s necessity for B2BAccording to our respondents, target groups and employees’ mentalities are changing, requiring B2Bcompanies 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’ influenceincreases as content sharing and customer feedback soliciting on those media expand. As stated inthe literature (e.g. Kerley, 2010b) most respondents explain clients check social media for businesssolutions and trusted third-party feedback (e.g. recommendations) before the purchase decision. Awebsite becomes insufficient to ascertain high traceability, and to keep reaching and influencing targetgroups, companies must participate in those online conversations. Interviewees add that youngergenerations entering the job market are used to social media and expect them in businessenvironments, reinforcing the necessary presence. 27
  • 36. Only Exertum and Puratos question social media’s necessity because they believe, respectively, itonly 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 thattheir stakeholders expect them to quickly integrate those media in the communication mix. In sum, ITmust be forerunner in social media to secure its credibility and reputation.6.1.2 | Perception of the research hypothesisUnanimously 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 behindbecause 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 notsupport social media for the full 100%. Contrary to IT, industrial companies assume that their targetgroups have limited interest in social media and therefore can postpone thorough activities sincepromotion 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 inspirestakeholders’ 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 withthe research hypothesis, explaining that acceptance depends on company cultures willing to integratenew 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 socialmedia benefits or willing to try them. Van Marcke, then again, developed extensive activities through 5hiring social media believer Philippe Borremans who convinces his colleagues by graduallyintroducing those media. However, as IT respondents also agree industrial companies are moreconservative, their vision on the research hypothesis amounts to sectorial differences in mind-set.6.1.3 | Social media relevanceRespondents perceive social media equally useful for both sectors since their importance depends onappropriately deciding on goals and channels accordingly. Subject to objectives, social media’s valueis 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 andcompetitors adopting those media. To compete, spreading messages parallel through traditionalcommunication and social media becomes ever more important to draw attention. Similar toconclusions of Kerley (2010a), the majority of interviewees acknowledge that buyers increasinglyshare experiences with companies/products on social media.As only Internet Architects, NRB, RealDolmen and Xylos mention the importance of social mediausage towards employees through public (Facebook) and/or internal platforms (Yammer), those mediamight be extra significant for IT companies, compared to industrial enterprises. IT values social mediain 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 byindustrial companies. By investigating in the following section TAM (see part 3.1), we further explain ITcompanies’ lead on industrial enterprises and answer the first sub-question.6.2 | Social media attitudesThrough analysing respectively risks, advantages and challenges, we nominate the variablesexplaining why B2B companies perceive social media as more useful than challenging. We concludeindustrial companies struggle more: their management is still unconvinced and they additionallyperceive negative comments as a risk.6.2.1 | Perceived usefulnessRisksB2B companies recognise and experience few social media disadvantages or risks. Interviewees evenbelieve social media absence involves greater risks because one is ill-informed of commentsconcerning their company, unable to respond appropriately, offline and/or online. Exertum is anexception, perceiving more risks than advantages.Although not supported by our quantitative research (see part 5.2.2), most IT and industrialinterviewees believe own employees pose the greatest threat, becoming company spokespersonsthrough social media. Their inappropriate and/or wrong messages could damage the corporatereputation. ABB, for example, already received stakeholder denouncements after an employeecriticised 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 toprovide 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 publiclypost 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 commentsremain for them a threat, contrary to IT. Van Marcke aligns with IT interviewees, claiming criticismreceived through social media is an opportunity to improve one’s image, when handled appropriately.BenefitsAs expected from TAM (Davis et al., 1989), respondents acknowledge more advantages thandisadvantages and each IT respondent enumerates more benefits than industrial interviewees.Conforming to our quantitative research (see part 5.2.2), larger communication reach is unanimouslyseen as the most important advantage, positively influencing brand awareness, image creation andrecruiting through social media.Concerning brand awareness, interviewees’ opinions are summarised as follows: by creating publicitythrough social media, companies reach more and/or new target groups: e.g. the audience linked tocompany 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 companymessages spread virally. While Fabricom and RealDolmen presume those media provide companies amodern image, ABB thinks active enterprises are perceived as transparent. Some interviewees alsoclaim sharing solid, business-related and/or technical information (e.g. white papers) among many 6people creates credibility and thought leadership .For IT companies thought leadership goes together with employee brand ambassadorship, and istherefore significantly more important for IT than industrial enterprises (see part 5.2.2). Claiming brainpower is their most important asset, only IT respondents recognise social media’s usefulness indemonstrating expertise through employees sharing company messages. For Xylos this even led tonew projects.Larger communication reach also benefits companies like Fabricom, Internet Architects andRealDolmen who seek to recruit through social media. They emphasise social media’s growingimportance in employer branding to attract personnel due to lack of Belgian IT employees andengineers, as was also mentioned by Jonckheere (2012).6 Thought leadership involves demonstrating the company’s expertise by communicating big ideas on customerissues 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, butcontrary to the literature (Kerley, 2010a) and our quantitative research (see part 5.2.2), relationshipbuilding was not mentioned. Interviewees agree social media increase market insights throughcustomer 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 totake interactivity one step further. Conforming to the literature (GlobalSpec, 2011), they perceive socialmedia as quick and relatively cheap means for ideation, i.e. collecting ideas leading to new products orimprovements.6.2.2 | Perceived ease of useComplementary 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 bygetting internally organised to handle those communications and systematically using those media inthe 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 withadded value and to keep them interested. However, they perceive this necessity of regularly deliveringrelevant and qualitative content, adapted to medium and audience, as extremely challenging.As social media require time and money investments, many respondents also struggle with shiftingother communication means and allocating resources adequately so social media are sufficientlysupported to monitor and handle customer feedback. Difficulties with ROI measurements (see part6.4.3) even hinder ABB to get employees time committed and Certipost to determine time/moneyinvestments.Contrary to US research (Hosford, 2012), management resistance and difficulties in receiving enoughresources appear sector-specific: because industrial management is often unconvinced of socialmedia’s benefits, they allot limited capital. 32
  • 41. In sum, respondents generally believe that social media create benefits when handled correctly. Whatinterviewees perceive as best practices, is analysed in the following section. Anyhow, it challengesenterprises as social media imply changing the communication mix and internal procedures.6.3 | Social media knowledgeIn this part we answer the second sub-question by examining respondents’ knowledge, linked to theirideas 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. 7 8Table 12 shows perceived knowledge is not sector-determined or linked to preliminary inquiries intotarget groups’ social media usage. Contrary to the literature (Comprehensio, s.d.), one can be expertand 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 adoptthe 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 practicalinsights and skilfulness, IT respondents refer to strategically understanding social media processesand opportunities.7 The question if Exertum investigated how their target groups use social media was irrelevant as the intervieweealready 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 mapaudiences’ 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 determineknowledge. Due to their recent social media presence, Fabricom, Puratos and Vandeputte describethat learning happens through practice.6.3.1 | 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 firmprofessionalism, Xylos emphasises its audience appreciates playful yet appropriate messages muchmore. To rightly provide target groups the wanted content, respondents do agree one first needs tounderstand their needs and ambitions.Irrespective of knowledge and sector, experts and respondents in apprenticeship mention similaruniversal success factors. Most interviewees believe best practices differ according to implementationphase. During preparation phase, companies must determine their goals and future activities. Whilescarcely present on social media, monitoring and exploring important topics for your business becomenecessary to secure content delivery and quick responses to comments. Certipost and Van Marckeemphasise 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 successfactor, i.e. providing information on specific themes that seizes customers’ attention. RealDolmen andXylos underline companies must present their workforce as social media concern personalisingcorporate brands.Finally, unanimously agreed, companies should not outsource day-to-day social media communicationas 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 strategicday-to-day activities, e.g. marketing campaigns, content creation through ghost blogging and ROImeasurements.6.3.2 | Social media effectivenessThe 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. Becauserespondents struggle with ROI measurements (see part 6.4.3), perceived effectiveness is based onintuition; not determined by knowledge or business sector.Concerning lead generation and conversion, there are weak and strong believers, irrespective ofalready having gained customers through social media. ABB, Van Marcke and Xylos truly acquiredclients 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. Theystress 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) byproclaiming solid content sharing through social media instigates reliable word-of-mouth, reaching andconvincing interested prospects.Regarding competitiveness, interviewees assume social media activities like sharing company values,positively influence corporate image, creating a competitive advantage against those competitorsabsent 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 itsmarket. 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, butIT believes it involves understanding when, how and what to say to achieve predetermined goals. Ourfollowing section examines whether there are also dissimilarities in strategic usage of social media.6.4 | Social media strategyBy evaluating goals and implementation strategies, this part answers our third sub-question: socialmedia 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 andmeasurable results.Respondents unanimously agree companies may not jump into social media without a plan because itsecures 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 usageand to achieve benefits. However, Vandeputte and Puratos explain that those novelties necessarilyimpose 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), fewcompanies actually work systematically, i.e. Certipost, Internet Architects, RealDolmen, Van Marckeand 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 clientsand/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. ABBused an experimental year to discover the possibilities and will work more systematically after benefitsare proven. Certipost also inserted a test phase, but immediately applied a basic plan to be able toallocate resources and work goal-directed.Generally, IT respondents are more inclined to work systematically straightaway as they believe thosemedia’s value cannot be estimated without clear objectives. Exertum and NRB have no strategy: 36
  • 45. 9irrelevant for Exertum 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.6.4.1 | Social media goals and integration in businessLike the aforementioned benefits and quantitative research results (see part 5.2.1), intervieweesespecially want to influence their corporate image and brand awareness. Social media becomenecessary cost-efficient means to maintain market exposure as the young workforce and pressincreasingly use them. Since B2B clients are also B2C consumers, creating visibility concerningcompany offers in consumer markets is perceived as equally important.Respondents rarely purposefully implement social media as direct sales channels to prospectsbecause 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 moreeasily. Because lead generation is an implicit objective, it appears quantitatively only as the fifth mostimportant 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 ‘identifyingneeds’ to ‘searching a supplier’ (see Kotler et al., 2010), believing social media’s accessibility andspontaneity 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 usedecreases as the buying process advances. The majority considers social media still incapable ofcreating client relationships because they instigate only occasionally conversations. Although thisthesis explained social media is about interaction (Carson, 2010), and many interviewees aim toachieve customer dialogues, B2B professionals/buyers hold back in publicly expressing their attitudes.Therefore, it remains a monologue where companies push information. ABB and Certipost evenperceive 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 isnot 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 (seepart 5.2.1). Puratos, Van Marcke, Vandeputte and Xylos differ because they believe when face-to-faceand 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 dependon companies’ specificities. Only mentioned by Certipost, traffic building’s second position in ourquantitative research cannot be explained, contrary to recruiting’s third position (see part 5.2.1). Manycompanies like Fabricom and RealDolmen struggle with open vacancies, so increasingly use socialmedia for recruiting. RealDolmen and Xylos then have many employees working outdoors and applysocial media to strengthen employee-employer relationships. Finally, although an importantadvantage, thought leadership is only a goal of Van Marcke.6.4.2 | Social media activitiesIrrespective of working systematically, IT and industrial B2B companies execute the same activities.Firstly, as respondents believe good content determines success, most activities are devoted tosharing press releases, white papers and information on projects, product launches, prizes won byemployees, … 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 respondentsunderstand the relevance of adapting messages to audience groups, in practice many companies findit 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 andcorporate blog.Secondly, ABB, Exertum, Fabricom, RealDolmen, Van Marcke and Xylos recruit through job postingsand status updates on job events. Van Marcke (near future) and Xylos also create separate careerpages on LinkedIn. Finally, Puratos, RealDolmen, Van Marcke and Xylos own blogs to displayexpertise and benefit from gaining thought leadership.6.4.3 | MeasurementRespondents monitor negative/positive comments, competitors and followers in order to appropriatelyanswer remarks and adapt to competitors’ behaviour, but actual ROI measurements are limited andrestricted to quantitative metrics. In line with the literature (Marketo, 2010), interviewees struggle infinding 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 tosocial 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.” 10Most IT companies execute basic web analytics because they are easy to apply, but remain troubledabout those numbers’ interpretation, e.g. the monetary value of retweets. Industrial companies furtherminimise measuring because they believe it is not necessary provided their confined investment (intime and money) and activities.Similar to conclusions of the literature (Nair & Sidhu, 2010), some interviewees reckon they apply thewrong measurements and therefore only receive indications of social media’s impact on sales andcompetitiveness. Only Van Marcke is confident about its ROI metrics: measuring yields by allocatingmonetary values to specific actions (e.g. retweets are worth 5 euros) and tracking effectiveness of call-to-actions in shared content (e.g. white papers).Qualitative measuring seems even more difficult as it concerns analysing intangible aspects likeperceptions and conversations’ tone of voice. Respondents wonder how branding and image creationcan be objectively measured and translated into monetary value. By exception, Van Marcke executestop of mind research to measure thought leadership.6.5 | ConclusionB2B companies agreeing better communication ultimately leads to higher sales also recognise thisrequires 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 enterprisesdue to their innovativeness and technological affinity. We complement the literature by showing thatespecially target groups’ (non-)use of social media influences companies’ inclination. Contrary to USresearch (ThomasNet, 2011), Belgian industrial companies perceive their audience as absent onsocial 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 andthe probability of being found by prospects. Based on interviewees’ perceived benefits, we concludecompanies’ communication mix becomes more effective through social media, especially whenworking according to a strategy which positively influences companies’ corporate image. However, wecannot objectively confirm IT companies’ strategic approach creates more tangible and measurableoutput 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 witha 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 B2Bcompanies will become more important as younger generations increasingly base buying decisions ononline third-party feedback. However, interviewees agree B2B enterprises still need to take thenecessary steps to materialise commercial benefits. 40
  • 49. 7 | DiscussionBecause of limited academic research, this thesis project analysed social media attitudes, usage andstrategies 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 industrialcompanies, 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 topreserve 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 socialmedia 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 ITto 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 andmarkets are reticent towards those channels, hindering receiving enough resources from theirmanagement. Hence, industrial enterprises might miss new projects by staying blind to undiscoveredtarget groups talking about subjects related to one’s business, e.g. end users. Research regardingdiscussed topics on social media and their influence is relevant to investigate if industrial companiescan truly put off those media.Generally, social media’s strategic usage is found to be difficult: only 19% of Belgian B2B companiesuse a plan, falling well behind on the 28% of Dutch B2B enterprises (SpotONvision, 2011). While mostindustrial enterprises first discover by practice what works for their companies, IT operates significantlymore according to plan. Although we expected IT companies’ systematic social media usage to bemore effective, abstract interview data did not confirm a positive association between strategicapproach and tangible output.Consequently, we consider only the first part of our hypothesis confirmed and raise the issue ofnon-measurable success, i.e. the difficulty to attribute success to one medium of the communicationmix. Nevertheless, quantitative methods like desk research through monitoring tools are required toobjectively confirm/refute that working systematically generates more concrete and measurableresults.By questioning perceived usefulness and ease of use, we empirically proof TAM’s applicability (Daviset al., 1989) on B2B companies concerning social media adoption. Social media interest thoseenterprises because they perceive few risks and multiple advantages. Generally, they are inapprenticeship 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 inappropriatemessages. Industrial companies evaluate social media’s usefulness lower than IT because theyperceive the extra risk of negative comments. According to TAM, this further explains why industrialenterprises are less likely to adopt social media.Active companies use social media at the beginning of the sales funnel, creating market exposure tobecome more easily found and approached. As such, companies integrate social media as corporatecommunication tools, responding to how buyers employ them (see Base one, 2011), and hoping toindirectly increase sales. 41
  • 50. Research limitations provide extra ground for new research. Firstly, low response rates might haveinfluenced 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 toosmall 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-evaluateconclusions and receive generalizable explanations for not adopting social media. We assume thatespecially 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 analysisdescribes social media’s complexity among B2B companies, but lacks clear understandings ofrelations between variables. Variation among interviews also negatively influenced comparability. Thisthesis was unable to provide established explanations for some of the quantitatively found differences 11between sectors . Future research should adopt a single focus on attitudes, knowledge orimplementation strategies to complement this thesis with clear-cut insights and a more structuredinterviewing approach to ensure respondents receive the same questions in the same sequence.Thirdly, our quantitative research indicates differences in social media usage according to companysize. As this was not further investigated, comparative research of small and large companies canexpand 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 presumesocial media’s adoption in B2B markets involves economic consequences, such as changes incommunication investments, purchasing processes and client relationships. Future research into howsocial 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 thequalitative analysis to increase its readability. 42
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  • 54. B2B markets’ conversion into social mediaMulti-strategy analysis of social media use and attitudes in industrial and IT companies Appendices 46
  • 55. 9 | Appendices9.1 | Appendix A: contact e-mailBeste,In het kader van mijn opleiding Meertalige Bedrijfscommunicatie aan de Universiteit Gent voer ik insamenwerking met mijn stagebedrijf Quadrant Communications een onderzoek naar het gebruik vansociale media door B2B-bedrijven.Met dit onderzoek wil ik inzicht geven in het reële gebruik ervan en in de motieven om sociale media aldan niet te hanteren. Mijn proefschrift zal inzicht verschaffen in hoe andere B2B-bedrijven socialemedia gebruiken.Wilt u meewerken aan dit onderzoek om het gebruik van sociale media bij B2B-bedrijven in kaart tebrengen? 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 e-mailadres na te latenop het einde van de enquête. Indien u geïnteresseerd bent, kunt u ook deelnemen aan hetvervolgonderzoek 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 VeldemanStudente Meertalige Bedrijfscommunicatieceline.veldeman@ugent.be+32 477 665 701 47
  • 56. 9.2 | Appendix B: online questionnaireDag,Wat volgt is een vragenlijst in het kader van mijn onderzoeksproject naar het gebruik van socialemedia door B2B-bedrijven. U kan kiezen om deze vragen al dan niet anoniem in te vullen. In elk gevalbent u er op minder dan tien minuten mee klaar.Bedankt voor uw medewerking!Céline VeldemanStudente Meertalige Bedrijfscommunicatie Universiteit GentGEBRUIK SOCIALE MEDIA(1) Gebruikt uw bedrijf sociale media voor commerciële of andere doeleinden?Onder sociale media verstaan we toepassingen zoals LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, wikis enblogs. E-mail 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 3mogelijkheden 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 mogelijkhedenaan)? 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 Op sociale media geven we eigenlijk te veel bloot over ons bedrijf, waardoor concurrenten te veel inzicht krijgen. o We proberen het te vermijden, maar sommige collega’s plaatsen te veel onzin over ons bedrijf op sociale media. o We proberen het te vermijden, maar sommige collega’s plaatsen foutieve informatie over ons bedrijf op sociale media. o De meeste B2B-bedrijven die sociale media gebruiken, doen dat zonder een duidelijke strategie. o De meeste B2B-bedrijven die sociale media gebruiken, verkrijgen geen meetbare resultaten. o Sociale media zijn een vast onderdeel geworden van het B2B verkoopproces. o Wegens sociale media is het moeilijker om personeel aan ons bedrijf te binden. o 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 geantwoordWanneer 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 (duidmaximum 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 Op sociale media geven we eigenlijk te veel bloot over ons bedrijf, waardoor concurrenten te veel inzicht krijgen. o We gaan het proberen te vermijden, maar sommige collega’s plaatsen te veel onzin over ons bedrijf op sociale media o De meeste B2B-bedrijven die sociale media gebruiken, doen dat zonder een duidelijke strategie. o De meeste B2B-bedrijven die sociale media gebruiken, verkrijgen geen meetbare resultaten. o Sociale media zijn een vast onderdeel geworden van het B2B verkoopproces. o Het gebruik van sociale media vraagt weinig mentale inspanning.(1B.1B) Indien neen geantwoordWaarom 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 10 - 49 o 50 - 250 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 (eenpersoonlijk 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 ITThe majority of the interviews were held within the respondents’ company buildings, with the exceptionof ABB and Fabricom. 53
  • 62. 9.4 | Appendix D: interview guideIntroductie1. 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: ATTITUDE4. 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: KENNIS8. 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 GEBRUIK12. 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, …)?AfsluitingHoe belangrijk, denkt u, dat sociale media in de toekomst zullen zijn voor uw industrie en denaamsbekendheid van B2B-bedrijven? 55
  • 64. 9.5 | Appendix E: codebook Theme Code Sub-code ExplanationAttitudes Definition Perceptions of what social media stand for. Respondents’ ideas on the research hypothesis (i.e. IT companies are more advanced in social media than Vision professionals industrial B2B companies). Perceptions of the necessity of social media for different types of B2B companies (e.g. added value, social Necessity 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. Perceptions of when social media are most useful in the B2B buying cycle (e.g. need identification, supplier Business cycle 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. Ideas of the best communication strategy for B2B companies, and the strategy respondents use (i.e. Communication strategy 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 Expected and/or achieved influence of a social media presence on competitiveness. 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
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