An interview with the Head of Social Media at Belgacom's Consumer Business Unit

Here the first of a series of interviews with "people like me" - passionate about communications, public relations and social media.

Up first is Frederic Herzeele, Head of Social Media at Belgacom's Consumer Business Unit.

The Belgacom Group is the largest telecommunications company in Belgium, headquartered in Brussels. Belgacom Group is primarily state owned, with the Belgian state holding 53.3% + 1 share.

The company's offerings include fixed line communication through the Belgacom brand, mobile communications through the Proximus brand and ICT services to the professional market under the Telindus brand.

Q: Can you describe your position at Belgacom ?

As Head of Social Media, I’m reporting to the Consumer Business Unit's Communications/Branding Director.

I see my role as a “Chef d’Orchestre” to coordinate all the different initiatives in the different departments of Belgacom, using the “Hub & Spokes” organization model.

Today I am a solo player interacting with cross functional teams. My main focus is on embedding Social Media in our day to day marketing mix but also help, guide and support other departments as HR, Internal and Corporate Communications, the Enterprise Business Unit Marketing/Comms and others.

Q: What is the Belgacom strategy behind social media communications ? What are the main objectives ?

Social Media has drastically changed the way we interact and communicate with our customers by giving them platform to express themselves loud and clear about their experience as customers.

Word of mouth gets a new dimension versus classical marketing/communication approach. Comments from peers are becoming more and more important in the decision making process.

We see Social Media as an interactive media and channel but not, (yet ?), as a pure sales channel. We started in 2010 to help our customers via Eva. (an online persona which helps Belgacom customers through online forums).

Today, our main objective is to create a permanent dialogue with our customers trough Social Media. To do so we:

  • Listen actively to conversations about Belgacom
  • Help our customers via Eva, our virtual customer service operator
  • Inform about our products and services when it makes senses: primeur, innovative product or solutions and special actions (servicing).

We're also interacting with our customers by involving them into product launches, beta-testing... Reaction speed, quality of answers and coherence in the messages cross channels are key.

Q: Are you taking the centralized (a social media team being responsible) or the integrated approach (embedding social media throughout the company)

As Social Media is a media/channel used by different departments to reach different objectives and as Belgacom is a quite large company, we are trying to work in an integrated approach, embedding Social Media usage where it makes senses.

Our approach is to decentralize the conversations in order to ensure speed and quality and to manage coherence trough centralized guidelines and weekly coordination meetings.

Multiple hub & spoke "Dandelion"

Q: how are employees engaged in the process ?

We have launched several initiatives regarding employees but today only employees directly using social media for work have access. We are testing a more open social media policy allowing more employees to access these platforms.

The key there is to educate our employees about the best way to use it for the company and themselves. A pilot with 200 employees has been launched two weeks ago and we will launch a new HR project using employees as ambassadors in the coming weeks.

Q: What are your biggest challenges ?

To find the good balance to manage my time between structural and strategic projects versus day to day actions. Move faster and industrialize our approach as our customers are there talking about us, asking for more support, information and ways to engage with us.

Speed up our reaction time but ensure coherence of the messages in the same time. Find the right balance between centralization and decentralization.

Q: Any tips you want to leave us with ?

Move step by step, by trying things without forgetting to work to embed structurally the Social Media evolution in corporate culture.

You can follow Frederic on Twitter @fherzeele