eOffice adopts a strong social media strategy
Small and medium enterprises are discovering how to use social media to keep in touch with their clients and social networks, and an effective way of supporting easy communication with large number of people. eOffice is one of these companies, that has changed its way of communicating.
By Magda Hercheui
eOffice provides design, high-tech office environments for small businesses and start-ups. The first centre opened in London in 2002, and was the first open plan business centre in Europe. It offers virtual offices, hot desking options (with wireless access), flexible full-time office space and a wide range of meeting facilities and videoconferencing. eOffice now has over a thousand clients, ranging from start-ups and consultants who require a flexible office space to SMEs and even large companies searching for creative meeting spaces.
In this kind of business, cultivating social networks is essential. Clients are coming and going as needs change, and it is necessary to inform potential customers of the availability of space and occasional promotions. eOffice, for instance, brings people together by organising regular networking events called Net Thursday, in which current clients and potential ones come to share ideas and increase their professional contacts. However, it is through social media that the company is reaching a large number of people and building a substantial network. Pier Paolo Mucelli, founder of eOffice, has talked to NMK about his strategy in using social media to keep business and personal contact with his clients.
1- eOffice has been exploring forms of using social media to keep in touch with its clients. You have used in the past more traditional Internet interfaces (website), but now you are exploring the use of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter and blogs. Why has the company changed its communication to the social media channels?
At eOffice, we embraced online communities from 2003 onwards, initially with an intranet portal. As international social and business networks developed and started to grow their member base exponentially, I decided to use free online resources with a much wider networking potentials and marketing opportunities to expose our eOffice brand. I was an early adopter of LinkedIn and reached the maximum limit of 30,000 direct connections in 2007. I see websites as more of an online catalogue, showcasing your products and services, and allowing clients to buy, but normally a one-way channel. Social and business networks offer entry to a wider user base, internationally, at no direct cost (apart from time), with great branding opportunities. A kind of PR, advertising and word of mouth combined.
2- How could you describe your strategy for using the different channels?
My eOffice blog includes resources and information relating to design, technology, the environment and workplace trends. The aim is to position eOffice as a trend setter in workplace solutions for the business community. The main eOffice Twitter account is one of the distribution channels for our blog resources and information, but it also includes updates from other lateral high quality resources. Our eOffice LinkedIn and Facebook groups have the objectives of reinforcing our brand and creating local communities of start-ups and SMEs. The YouTube and Picasa video and picture resources improve our marketing and sales tools and also distribution channels and reach.
3- What sort of conversations do you have with eOffice communities?
Members of our local Facebook and LinkedIn groups discuss topics relating to the start up community, for example events, promotions, awards and tips. It is not an easy task to create a community, and often we let members discuss and contribute directly. It is an ongoing process and we are learning every day. In my online plan, Twitter was not even present in 2008. I wonder which new killer applications and networks are being developed as we speak. We recently launched a new promotion, supporting UK start-ups with £100,000 worth of office services, £1,000 each company (3 months free including business address, telephone number, hot desking, wifi and meeting space). We used Facebook and Twitter as distribution channels. The word of mouth generated was substantially and we signed several dozen new member companies, our most successful promotion to date
4- You have an interesting approach of having your network and the eOffice networks in parallel, and somehow overlapping. What is the strategy behind having these two networks? Why is it important to have both networks, and how do they feed each other?
Besides our corporate blogs and social/business networks focusing on our eOffice brand, I am also using social networks under my name, as the founder and key driver of eOffice. Several of our clients/members are entrepreneurs and start-ups and they often interested to know who are behind the products and service they buy. It is all about people at the end of the day. The fact that I am using an open social media platform and I am directly available to all of them, gives them more confidence.
5- You have a business model that offers a lot of flexibility to start ups, small companies and self-employed professionals. How do you think your approach in using social media fit the needs of these professionals? In other words, why do people link to eOffice communities through social media?
Internet is offering new business and entrants the opportunity to offer innovative services and products to an international audience with lower costs and faster pace than in the past. Several of our start-up clients or potential clients know that. Therefore the use of social media not only increases our marketing channels and promotional efforts but also makes us a more approachable organization and brand, with more things in common. At the end of the day, you often to do business with people and company you like.
eOffice on social media:
Pier Mucelli on social media: