how entreprises can find success in social media as a business-to-business brand

An extract from an interview with Axel Haentjens on our digital strategy at Orange Business

Axel, good morning. You are VP for communications and marketing at Orange Business.  Why does Orange need the Internet?

·                     Obviously, our brand awareness as far as Orange Business is concerned is well established. However, the Internet is providing a new set of tools which make it possible for us to improve our communication towards our ecosystem. When I say ecosystem, I mean, of course, our clients first and foremost will get access their own client space through the Orange Business portal, but also ICT experts and enthusiasts who can actually come to our sites, our blogs, our WebTV etc. in order to find information on the subjects that they feel passionate about.

Could you describe your strategy with regard to communications over the Internet?

·                     When we started this initiative nearly two years ago, our aim was to adapt our tone of voice in order to be more direct, closer to the values of the Orange brand. The principles of the Orange brand are very straightforward: simplicity, openness and collaboration (collaboration is even part of our tagline "together we can do more"). We aim to deliver lots of information to our ecosystem, useful information, direct information and almost entirely based on our experience. What's great at Orange Business, it's not just the brand; it's mostly the people who are working for us and in the 166 countries in which we operate. It is therefore obvious that our best asset are those men and women who are part of our company; their field experience; the passion that they feel about their job; their understanding of the market; their analysis of the future; and this is what we want to share with our ecosystem. This is why decided that all our content would be available under the Creative Commons license, that is to say that we are sharing everything we do --  this is consistent with the Orange brand and our values. We are living and sharing these values and we want people to be able to see it in action, this is not just sales talk. I really believe in setting an example; for instance, I myself am committed to writing an article a week on our main blog, not on communications and marketing, but on my favourite subject, the one that I really feel passionate about: Green IT. If I believe in social media as a vehicle for what I do and love, it is a clear sign to all Orange employees that they can use this tool, too.


Is this the reason why you decided to develop expert blogging at Orange Business?

·                     Absolutely! What matters with these blogs, which are available at, is not the blogs themselves because blogs are only a tool.  What matters is the ability to make it possible for all our experts at Orange Business to talk directly to our clients, clients' teams, consultants, market experts, analysts and even universities because all members of Generation Y are important to us. In 2009 only, more than 1,500 comments were published on our blogs, and I think that in itself is telling. Despite the fact that we're a b2b company, we sometimes generate more interest than certain consumer brands, and this means that we have managed to get our public interested through the delivery of pertinent information. Our objective is to pursue this work and to extend expert blogging to new contributors. Each time we launch a new blog, we are truly positioning our brand on a new field of competency by demonstrating how pertinent we are on that domain. It's the very experts who are standing in front of our clients who are contributing on our blogs, they are real people. What is even more pertinent than that is that this tool is a real platform for us to work with our clients and prospective clients, and our experts can actually use it to take what they have written or their video clips in the field.


How important is multimedia in your Internet strategy?

·                     Multimedia is fundamental, and I decided from day one to position Orange Business as a leader in the utilisation of multimedia in b2b digital marketing. Our website was launched at the end of 2008 and is now a true communications success in the b2b sphere. In 2009, more than 70,000 videos have been viewed, and that was only the first year for the launch of the WebTV. 2010 is truly the year of maturity for that tool, with already more than 30,000 videos viewed since January! This means that we've already delivered more than 1,900 hours worth of viewing in 2010 compared to a total of 3,500 hours in 2009. Our Web TV and radio has become pivotal in our communications strategy.  I also decided to give video cameras to two teams so that they would be able to shoot their own clips and post them online. We have also implemented a new Web radio tool as a new way of distributing multimedia online. Orange Business once more is showing the way in the area of the to be Internet marketing. By the way, our WebTV has even been turned into a product -- named Orange WebTV -- which we are providing to our clients who want to equip themselves with this kind of multimedia tool.


A lot has been said about social media, but what is your vision about or about the usage of social media for Orange Business?

·                     At Orange Business, we haven't talked about social media for a long time but we are doing it on a daily basis. Talking digital is less important than doing digital, and this is what we have gone an Orange Business for a long time now already. Our presence on twitter, I should say I engagement on twitter, is a reality now for over a year, and our brand is one of the most dynamic on twitter, even more dynamic than many consumer brands. Twitter is particularly important for brands that deal in business to business because it's a tool which enables you to direct messages to influencers, journalists, analysts and particularly in the high-tech ecosystem, especially internationally. We have now more than 8150 followers, and our influence on the Internet grows on a daily basis.  This is thanks to this strategy based around content which I have set up and which enables us to serve our visitors, our ecosystem, one being very respectful, open to their feedback, and very strict regard to the implementation of disclosure. Disclosure doesn't mean that we are no longer marketing ourself; we are very proud of our offering but first and foremost, we want to be to service community. We have therefore created a B2B label which is dedicated to business to business and which enables us to link more than 150 websites and blogs. Exchanges are taking place between all these web owners including ourselves.


how important is digital and organisation of the events within Business Orange Services?

·                     This is something which is particularly important: I particularly want to avoid developing digital in silos, and I don't want it to go let it go round in circles, and I want my teams to work together with one another and to help each other. I must admit that as far as event organisation is concerned, it was particularly successful. The organisation of the Orange Business Live event, an international client event which is taking place from June 15-17,  2010 in Amsterdam, will be the result of work in common between teams, online as well as off-line. The objective is not to have an event online that would compete with our  face-to-face real life event. On the contrary, the objective is to benefit from this event by relaying the information online and make it live online and to develop it digitally. Similarly, we will be using our digital multimedia abilities to facilitate the event itself, and to provide presence in the field which will enable us to relate content, points of view, trends as well as enable this event, originally a private event and make it incredibly successful and visible on the internet. Social media plays a fundamental role in all this. Last year thanks to our present in social media we brought more than 35,000 visitors to a short-term blog which was dedicated to Orange Business live in London, this year our objective is to take this number to 150,000 international visitors, and not only during the duration of the event, that is that is to say that a lot more people will come to visit our content after the event. What we have implemented within the event's organisation you can actually find in everything we do: client magazines, white papers, advertorials, press relations. I think it's pretty useless to try and find an area in which digital is not playing a role nowadays. Digital has enabled us to do things which were unthinkable five years ago. Within the next five years, I can predict that new revolutions will take place. All that's left now is for us to stay in contact through our Orange Business websites.


Axel Haentjens, thanks for talking to us about your strategy.


related links

Orange Business and the Social Media  Summit

Orange Business Invited at Likeminds 2010 in Exeter

Orange Business at Likeminds 2010 in Exeter

Blogwell in Atlanta : How ConAgra embraced a Social Media culture


Edwige Cottigny

Within the digital team of Orange Business, I lead content and special projects.