Trucking and transportation logistics provider Con-Way Inc. is about as b-to-b as you can get. But the company is knee-deep in social media, using it to communicate, listen and, as of early June, extend its most important, mission-critical business application.
Con-Way CMO Tom Nightingale has aggressively guided his company's brand onto Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and other social networks. He also uses blogs to scour the Web for leads—for both new customers and new employees—and as a thought-leadership platform.
“The reach [of social media] isn't as great in b-to-b as for a consumer brand,” Nightingale said. Nevertheless, he said, the potential positive and negative impacts “are very, very large.”
Nightingale points out that, in a b-to-b setting, social media posters usually aren't one-time customers. “These are customers we do business with day in and day out, and in some cases across decades,” he said. “If someone feels strongly enough to say something about our company online, the return on investment is really high if we can respond to it right away.”
Con-Way uses a fairly simple social media tool—the popular HootSuite application—to listen and respond to posts about the company. It works with its PR and ad agencies to follow comments and respond when necessary, Nightingale said.
Interestingly, the company is finding uses for social media that go beyond mere reputation management.
In June, Con-Way launched a new members-only Twitter page that pushes out “load listings” to its Twitter follows. The load listings (typically, several hundred a day) are already available on the company's website, where they are picked up by independent truckers across the country in anywhere from a few minutes to a few days. But the trucking industry, including individual truck drivers, is very dependent on mobile devices these days, which makes Twitter a great way to distribute these posts, Nightingale said.
“It's really challenging to find a pure-play example of a b-to-b social media application,” Nightingale said. “But this one is right down the center b-to-b.”
Moreover, the potential audience for the Con-Way Twitter app extends beyond the 10,000 or so third-party trucking companies Con-Way does business with today. “In the truck-driving community, mobile devices are really people's lifelines,” Nightingale said. “Now we're able to push information that is important out to them in the most convenient way possible.” M