The thesis includes four interviews with social media experts, synthesised around brand management for B2B companies, where as the theoretical background is B2B brand management. Thought leaders of social media and branding in the online environment are currently doing their work out in the field, whilst the academics are lagging behind.

In order to shed some light on issues regarding how B2B companies should manage opportunities and challenges in the social media space, this master thesis seeks to address the topic by conducting an exploratory study on how B2B companies can utilise social media to enhance the brand.

Social media does not change how businesses do business, but it adds another layer to brand management which needs to be treated different compared to traditional marketing efforts. In order to influence through social media companies have to provide value and build relationships, rather than hard-selling. The brand needs to be monitored in a much wider environment as conversations about the brand or conversations relevant to the brand are likely to be happening online; but at the same time they are feasible to monitor.

Branding in social media presents the company with opportunities to demonstrate the brand personality in a much more dynamic way then earlier, a new dimension for branding, as well as highlight the competitive advantage, increase awareness and gather people in niche markets on a global basis. But the challenge is there is no delete button. Once something is out in the online space and starts build momentum, it is not possible to control it. Slip-ups spread through social media can hurt the brand significantly. As employees are increasingly using social media in their day-to-day work they are also representing the brand, whether it is consciously or not. Guidelines are proposed as a tool to manage employees’ engagements in social media.

Before approaching the social media space companies need to monitor what is being said about the brand and the industry online, as well as map out how people internally are using social media in their day-to-day work. This will provide ideas to what business objectives it is possible to pursue solving through social media. When the company has established an objective, they could start choosing the strategy. When the strategy is chosen, they can start planning which tools, tactics and technologies they want to use. Where the company goes from there depends on the objective, the strategy and the unique properties of each company.

Method: The study is conducted using a qualitative approach. The purpose is to give an aerial view of how B2B companies should approach social media, what opportunities and threats exists, and how they should focus their online strategy to enhance the B2B brand. The theoretical part of this study builds upon business-to-business brand management due to the growth of B2C brands in social media. The empirical data of this study is interviews with four experts on the topic, which is further illustrated by three case studies. By synthesising the interviews, and comparing them with the illustrative case studies and the theory, the results develop.

Download PDF: Social Media in B2B Branding »

I would also like to acknowledge the valuable insights contributed by Jeff McCarthy (@JeffMcLFC) at Manchester Metropolitan University Business School, Steve Lamb (@ActionLamb) at Microsoft, Mike Rowland (@MRowland602) at Impact Interaction, and Scot McKee (@ScotMcKee) at Birddog (and author of Creative B2B Branding (no, really)). I also thank them for taking the time to share their experience, knowledge and expertise. Special thanks go to John Watton (@JWatton) at ShipServ and Paul Frost (@PositiveDigital) at Positive Digital for sharing their experiences with their B2B social media initiatives.

Haakon

Working with digital products and services at SpareBank 1 and SpareBank 1 SMN. Lives in Trondheim, but Vardø born and bred.

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11 Comments

  • Reply

    krupa@b2bmarketing

    July 14, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    A really well written blog and I couldn’t agree with you more on Social Media adding another dimension to B2B Branding. A facto that is well known to Social Media is Tone of Voice and this helps a lot when approaching the brand’s target audience as it enables relationships to be built and eventually even communities to develop. Here’s something that you and your visitors may well enjoying reading: http://www.b2bm.biz/knowledgebank/branding/best-practice/

  • Reply

    Mike Rowland

    August 9, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    Haakon,

    You nailed it. I hope that the thesis was graded very high on your grading scale. Your analysis and case studies are very good. It is the conclusion/recommendations that are spot on for B2B teams considering Social Media to consider that really stand out. Excellent work, I am glad I could contribute to it.

    Regards,
    Mike

  • Reply

    Haakon

    August 11, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    Krupa; Thanks. Speaking of tone and voice, I think it’s important to stay aligned with the brand on each customer touch-point. By the way, I’ve been to one of your half-day seminars on B2B social media (blogging & Twitter) which was quite good (got quite a few sources for my thesis from it). The knowledge bank is quite a good source for some insights, if I don’t remember all wrong I think I referenced it in my thesis.

    Mike: Thanks for your kind words. It hasn’t been graded yet, so I’m still waiting 🙂 I think the ShipServ case study really proves some of the points you made when it comes to measuring ROI.

  • Reply

    Branding Tips

    December 15, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    I was so keen to learn about social media & branding together, because lately I had an argument with one of my friend on this subject. Your blog post concluded a lot of my doubts. Thanks for writing this, it helped a lot.

  • Reply

    Rikke

    November 17, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    Hej!

    Jeg skal i gang med at skrive speciale sammen med en anden og vi skal skrive om effekten af sociale medier (vi har ikke fundet en endelig problemformulering endnu) og vi er derfor på udkig efter al den inspiration, vi kan finde! Jeg kan desværre ikke komme til at downloade pdf-filen, så er der mulighed for, at du kende sende dit speciale til min e-mail?

    Hilsen,
    Rikke

    • Reply

      Haakon Jensen

      November 21, 2011 at 10:42 pm

      Hei Rikke!

      Jeg får til å laste den ned, så usikker på hva som kan være galt… Men den er i alle fall sendt på epost nå 🙂

      Mvh Haakon

  • Reply

    sebastiandue

    April 10, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    Hi Haakon,

    I am currently writing my master thesis on social media and b2b branding, and i find your work very inspiring. What grade did the thesis receive?

    Cheers!

    Sebastian

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