How to generate leads in B2B social media? Or: The story of @MaerskLine’s #wintermaersk campaign

This is likely to be my last post about Maersk Line and social media. Last week I started in my new role as social media strategist and consultant at Wibroe, Duckert & Partners, so focus will probably shift now that the shipping game is over. So to speak.

The question I will try to answer now is this: “How can you use social media as a mass media-like marketing channel that drives business leads in the B2B space?”

“That you cannot do,” many would say. Including myself. At least that was the case until last year when we (in Maersk Line) discovered an approach that worked wonders, and which would be easily replicable by other B2B companies.

As mentioned in my previous post, corporates who want to engage via social media need to understand that they should stop trying to manufacture, and stop planning their posts weeks and months ahead. Instead, they must focus on being present, credible, user-centric and vibrant.

So last year, when tasked with bringing a Maersk Line campaign to life on social media, we had to think twice about our approach.

When the Baltic Sea freezes over
First some background: Every year the Baltic Sea freezes over, making it extremely difficult for shipping companies to arrive on time in the Port of St Petersburg. Luckily, Maersk Line is particular good at navigating the icy waters and keep the cargo flowing. So in order to promote this added benefit of shipping with Maersk Line our Marketing department made a campaign incl. a sales brochure and various other collateral.

But would that work for social media? No, from our experience graphics and campaign elements don’t work. Even something as ‘sexy’ as an infographic will result in much lower engagement rates than a regular photo.

Know your audiences and their online behavior
The answer for us was to take a closer look at our audiences and target groups and ask ourselves how we could engage and remain relevant all the way through the sales funnel (in lack of better word).

On Facebook, only 15-20% of the Maersk Line fans are customers, the rest are either employees, shipping professionals or casual fans. And we need to share content that’s valuable to all of them if we want to make full use of the social space and reach friends of friends of existing fans.

The solution? First, we asked our Russian office to send out a local photographer to take some photos of the ships and the extreme conditions they are facing. Luckily, the photos they came back with were really, really good.

frozen containers
Adding a filter on Instagram only made the photos even more intense. After being shared on Instagram we also shared this IG photo on Facebook.

Second thing was to write a (somewhat) objective article for about the challenges shipping companies face in the Winter months in the Baltic Sea, and explain what we do to battle the freeze and why it’s so important to us.

Lastly, we made a webpage with a form where you could fill in your information and download the brochure developed about our anti-freeze services. In the article on we placed a link to the download form.

When users clicked ‘Download’ they automatically became a ‘hot lead’ in our system, and our local Sales people got notified right away.

A layered approach to B2B social media marketing
In other words, we worked with a layered approach ensuring relevance for all audiences at all three stages of the campaign. Here’s an illustration of the approach:

3 layers social media

So, the reasoning behind our campaign was: “Let’s tell the story that’s out there in a very visual way, engaging as many people as possible via our social media accounts (and even using the hashtag #wintermaersk to highlight it). If people want to read more about they should of course have that option so we will always include a link to the article. And then, if it just so happens that a potential customer (or an existing one for that matter) is reading and want to learn more about the service behind the story then they can of course download a brochure by clicking one step further.”

It’s dead simple, I would say. Still it’s quite different from the social media marketing tactics applied by other companies. The difference being that instead of using the various targeting options at our disposal via interest graphs etc. we used the three channels (social media, website, download form) to filter out the hot leads.

But why did we move in this layered direction? 1) Because the story seemed visually strong and relevant to a broader audience; 2) Because we wanted to tap into the anatomy of the social networks and also reach friends of friends who might be potential customers; 3) Because we wanted to keep the costs down (targeting specific groups will often end up costing you a lot of money).

The result?
Our campaign resulted in 150 unique leads. That’s massive in our industry. And calls for using this model again.

Luckily, chances are you won’t notice when we do. It won’t seem pushy, and that’s the whole idea.

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Here’s a few posts from the #wintermaersk campaign:

First #wintermaersk post on FB
The very first post in the campaign was published on Facebook. At that point in time Maersk Line had around 600k Facebook fans. The post was not promoted/boosted, so the high level of engagement is organic and a result of its highly sharable, visual character (almost 3k shares).
A handful of the photos taken by the photographer was shared on Instagram where @MaerskLine has around 24k followers. Here, the engagement rate was equally high, but no link to the article was provided as IG doesn’t support website links. Also, only very few of Maersk Line’s IG followers are customers or potential customers so it most likely wouldn’t have made any difference.
Twitter was also used to share the photos and drive people to the article on However, little effort was made to encourage people to click. The link was just inserted next to the caption describing the photo.
Twitter was also used to share the photos and possibly get people to read the article on However, little effort was made to encourage people to click. The link was just inserted next to the caption describing the photo as this was deemed the most interesting for the followers. Also note the #wintermaersk hashtag used throughout the campaign on Twitter and Instagram (at that point in time hashtags weren’t supported by Facebook).