In 2009 voestalpine was one of Austria's first B2B enterprises to launch its own social media presence. An initial phase of learning by doing has developed into a long-term, Group-wide, and international social media strategy which is a core element of corporate communications.
According to a 2009 study, 60% of Austrian internet users were on Facebook and Twitter at that time—and this trend was growing. Eight years later the number of Austrian users has risen to 71%, and it is no longer thinkable for a company not to have its own social media presence, at least on the most common platforms.
Facebook & Co. started to have a real impact in Austria in 2009, and were first seen as platforms for private use. Many local companies planned to wait and see if the initial hype would blow over before considering this “new media” in more depth. voestalpine was a more courageous B2B enterprise, and quickly recognized the opportunities offered by directly interacting and communicating with users.
Social media, the decisive step ahead
The first social media activities were the setting up of the Innovation Blog in October 2009. This was primarily a channel for covering topics including innovation, advances, the pioneering role in steel production technology and applications for which there was limited space on the corporate website. Little by little additional platforms such as Twitter and Facebook were added. This gradual approach and its piecemeal incorporation into the general communication strategy were a decisive factor for success. “It was particularly important to test and try out everything on a small scale, to understand the dynamics of each platform and then to develop a strategy for the respective channel,” reflects Andrea Zajicek, who was responsible for social media presence at that time.
What was once referred to as “Web 2.0” was in its infancy. Consequently, very little was known about it and so these platforms and developments were explored step by step. And it was precisely this approach which offered voestalpine the opportunity to raise awareness of the company’s image and profile, to anchor the core corporate messages via the channels, and to reach new target groups. Andrea Zajicek is clear that the right timing and the company’s flexibility were a factor in the successful implementation of social media: “Companies who jumped on the social media bandwagon at a later stage were in a more difficult position, arriving once the standards for a social media presence were already high. Our starting advantage was to be able to grow into this field, and I believe this worked extremely well.”
Social media as an integral element of overall communication
Since the arrival of social media, new platforms have been constantly popping up and others disappearing—but their overall reach was continuously expanding. Gerhard Kürner, former head of communications at voestalpine, even notices an impact on the way the Group was perceived: “We were regarded as pioneers in the industry, and these activities—especially in Austria—have made a substantial contribution to creating the image of voestalpine as an international technology and capital goods group, rather than steelworkers from Linz.”