What role do companies play, if people get what they need from each other?
The collaborative economy is on the rise. It’s the third phase of social: First came social media where the media landscape was democratised as people started sharing and creating media; then came social business where businesses started using social technologies across the enterprise; and thirdly came the collaborative economy which is about sharing and creating physical goods and services.
You know it from the likes of Airbnb, Uber and Kickstarter.
The video does what many other corporate videos fail to do: It opens on an emotion soon followed by a promise to the viewer. Also, there’s a main character who’s got something at stake and is not trying to hide it.
Ever since Ed and I launched Orca Social earlier this year we’ve been asked the same questions again and again. So I figure it makes sense to answer these questions in a FAQ style blog post (BTW: for some odd reason I love FAQs). Here it goes.
I never understood social media marketing. To my best understanding, social media has never been about marketing. It has always been about communication. In essence, what happened 10 years ago with Facebook, MySpace and other social networks was that companies got sidelined as part of the web became social.
In less than one and a half year shipping giant Maersk Line has secured an astounding 780,000 fans on Facebook and a comprehensive presence on 11 other platforms. Including 40,000 followers on Twitter, 30,000 on LinkedIn, and 22,000 on Instagram.
At an extremely low cost the campaign has changed the face of Maersk Line – in a conservative B2B industry “where you think no one would be social”.
After having been in a “listening phase” for a couple of years, Maersk Line – the world’s largest container shipping company – decided to in-source a social media specialist to its communications department to get the company started on social media.
In October 2011, after having been employed for a week, his strategy was approved by the CCO.
The strategy and the objectives
The strategy outlined “getting closer to our customers” as the key overall target while pointing to brand awareness, brand loyalty, employer branding, employee retention, customer insights and even co-creation as other positive outcomes.
The strategy also made clear that platform differentiation is the way to go: The company was advised to use different platforms for different purposes.
A story of success
From that point on it’s been one long story of success that has surprised many. Among the highlights are:
780,000 fans on Facebook with record-high engagement level.
A purposeful presence on Twitter, incl. setting up a Twitter panel of select employees (incl. a captain, a graduate and a number of top executives).
A cool and elegant presence on Instagram which has started a #maersk spotting trend across the globe and has secured Maersk Line a place on Instagram’s elite list of ‘Suggested Users’.
The creation and maintenance of “The Shipping Circle”, a group on LinkedIn where shipping experts share their insightful thoughts and ideas with the company – valuable input that’s set to influence management decisions.
The company’s more than 150 country communication managers around the globe can now do local posts via the global Facebook page, thereby ensuring both simplicity, brand alignment and effective/relevant customer communication – and also ensuring that Maersk Line really do “get closer its customers”.
Better at social than the big B2C brands
In a mini-survey made in July 2012 in order to measure how good Maersk Line is at social compared to the 12 leading brands on Facebook, Maersk Line came in second with a score of 37.0.
In comparison, Lego scored 48.0, Disney 34.2, Shell 19.1, Red Bull 6.0, and Coca-Cola 2.2.
Attention from the media
The “Maersk Line in social media” story has already gotten its fair share of media attention, highlighted as setting a new standard for B2B companies in social media.
On more than one occasion top 5 social media experts have also displayed their enthusiasm, e.g. Jay Baer and Scott Stratten. And currently both M.I.T. and Harvard University are writing case studies about Maersk Line for their curriculum.
Done at almost no cost
However, the most remarkable thing about the campaign is the extremely low cost at which it has been run: Apart from occupying less than one FTE, it has only brought about around $ 100K in other external expenses, allowing Maersk Line not to look further into things such as ROI.
The next step: Unlocking the full potential
Nevertheless, Maersk Line conducted a comprehensive social media study in Q4 2012, in order to evaluate the efforts – and decide where to take social media the next 2-3 years.
The study revealed that the value creation so far has been far out of this world, with a ROI of more than 1500 %. The math actually showed a ROI of close to 5000 % – so 1500 % is a very conservative estimate.
The study was done as an open innovation process with both leading american consultants and key stakeholders within Maersk Line being interviewed in a series of Google Hangouts.
The outcome of the 75-pager was a tangible recommendation to the top management of expanding the scope of social media in Maersk Line to include both Customer Service and Sales – and to further develop the setup in the communications department. Also, internal collaboration was highlighted as the area with the most potential looking ahead.
The management approved the recommendation, and in 2013 Maersk Line is therefore focusing on implementing social media across the organisation – and on turning social engagement into direct bottom line value.
When embarking on social media most companies ask themselves: “What do we get out of this? What’s the ROI? And how do we measure it?”
While this kind of thinking seems reasonable, and quite logical too, I believe it also poses a big problem for most companies, not least B2B companies where an actual conversion is often far away.
Actually, I have reason to believe that today hard metrics are hampering at least every second B2B social media programme around the world. Why? Because hard metrics force the companies down a path that’s too rigid and focused on short-term success.
While the discussion of what success means in a social context is often neglected social media managers end up navigating according to hard metrics with limited ability to manoeuver and be creative, i.e. find new ways that add value.
Writing the script as we go along
Let’s backtrack a bit and ask ourselves what kind of rules or logic we should apply when engaging in social media: Is it business rules or social rules?
The answer is evident: Business rules don’t apply. Social media is about the users connecting, and companies rely on the users’ mercy.
So it must be social rules then, right?
No, not really. Because there are no rules for how to be social. As Darwin taught us, the world is changing constantly, and we as human beings therefore need to improvise, not least when it comes to being social.
We need to write the manuscript as we go along.
This goes to tell that there’s a basic creativity aspect in our lives: We’re creating the social in every now, and we need to be creative in order to be successful in social life.
Translating this into a company’s social media engagement means that creativity and ability to improvise is necessary in order to engage successfully. Plans and measurements only make sense insofar they improve our ability to perform “social creativity”.
Here, creativity doesn’t mean something strange or even mad. It’s something we all do. Creativity is when we create something new that adds value in the given situation or context.
An end in itself
You might even claim that “social creativity” is the true engine behind the progress of mankind. Our social nature and structure is what has made us successful (“we did it together”), and being social is therefore an end in itself.
In other words, the ultimate goal with any social media campaign must ‘simply’ be to create new and better ways to be social. And in that scheme of things soft (qualitative) metrics are much more valuable than the hard (quantitative) ones.