“What in the world is a container shipping company doing in the social media?!” We have been asked this question repeatedly since we announced our presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram almost a year and a half ago.
The short answer is: because it adds value to the bottom line. Had this not been the case, we would (almost) not have any reason to be there.
Until now, social media have primarily been the domain of our communication department, but we are currently moving into the second phase of our strategy which will involve incorporating them into the actual business.
In order to determine what role social media should play in our business in the long term, we recently completed a study. In addition to evaluating our current value creation, this study also outlines our next step.
Over the next few weeks, I will attempt to extract the key aspects of the study in a number of blog posts.
But before we get to the study itself, it makes sense to outline what we have done to date, during the first phase of the programme.
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.
In Maersk Line we have a rather relaxed approach to the concept of “social media crisis”. Not that we don’t take it serious. But when analysing why brands end up in all sorts of trouble we’re seeing the same issue again and again.
In short: When companies are not being truthful about who they are, and are instead trying to paint a skewed or even false picture, they basically ask for it.
To boil it down to a few points, the following is our recipe for handling potential crises that may erupt within social media:
Be good. If the company has all the best intentions, all the time, there should be no problem. If our intentions are good or just understandable, then we will always be able to explain why we did what we did – and we shouldn’t be ashamed of it.
Be honest. We must never cover up things. If we did something wrong we should speak openly about it. We’re not perfect. And showing imperfection is actually the best way to build trust. From a communication perspective this is about not shying away from self-criticism and sharing the negative news.
Listen and respond – when relevant. We of course monitor what’s being said about us online, both when it’s addressing us directly and when people are just writing about us. Sometimes, when a response is necessary or deserved, we’ll respond. But not always. We don’t want to spend all our time responding to random comments.
Be human. Be good-humoured. Be friendly. And be respectful. If people are addressing an important issue, then track it down internally, find the person who really knows about it and get back with the answer ASAP.
Provide a pressure relief valve. Give aggrieved customers a dedicated place to complain, e.g. a forum, a blog post or even a Facebook post. Direct them to an “official” place to sound off. It keeps the complaining more organized, and makes sure that most of it happens in a venue we control.
Take it one at the time. A handbook is not the way to go, as you can tell from e.g. the famous O2 example. When there’s an issue that needs extra attention, we discuss it internally and respond accordingly. We learn from that, but it should never become automated. If it does, then that’s the next social media crisis right there.
And that’s it. It’s probably not a bullet-proof approach. But then, what is?
(Below is the English version of an article I wrote for Danish comms site Kforum.dk (they wrote the header and the teaser, not me)).
650,000 fans on Facebook and a record-high engagement score – that’s what Maersk Line, the world’s largest container shipping company, has achieved in its first year on social media. Comments, photo sharing and ‘likes’ are flooding in to Maersk Line via Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. Miraculous? Maybe not quite. In this article, Jonathan Wichmann, the company’s head of social media, shares the recipe for Maersk Line’s success on social media.
In Maersk Line, we got involved in social media a little more than a year ago, and in this space of time we have managed to achieve a quantum leap forward in our communication with our surroundings.
Today, we are active on 10 different social media networks with 10 different aims. We have more than 650,000 fans on Facebook. And we have created a home for our social media presence, namely our website: Maersk Line Social.
However, those are not the reasons why we won the ‘Social Media Campaign of the Year’ and ‘Community Presence’ awards at the European Digital Awards in Berlin a few months ago. We won those awards because of our approach to social media.
It only takes one person – on the inside
Firstly, we did it all from within. What happened was that I was ‘in-sourced’ to manage the project, as it would not have been credible and vibrant otherwise. I have pretty much done everything myself, which of course is one of the ideas behind social media, where everything seems to have become accessible to everyone.
What’s interesting about this, however, is the cost aspect. Our external costs for the year have only amounted to just under USD 60,000. This amount can only be regarded as peanuts when you consider the size and turnover of the company – and when you look at what other global companies pump into it.
Communication, not marketing
The second thing we were awarded for was the way we think about social media and the record-high engagement we have achieved – on Facebook and other sites – as a result of our approach.
From the outset, we have been conscious of the widespread (and misunderstood) tendency to regard social media as nothing more than the sum of a series of digital platforms on which companies can disseminate their news and campaigns directly to users of the various networks.
Social media are about communication, not marketing. It is about engaging, not disseminating. It has to be vibrant and credible.
A rare B2B case in the social media environment
The third thing we were awarded for in Berlin was the fact that Maersk Line is a classic B2B company, and there is a shortage of examples of such companies using social media networks well.
In other words, we are not talking about your typical FMCG company, such as Coca-Cola or Red Bull, but rather about something as dry as container transport.
It was therefore even more satisfying to win ahead of 500 participants, including all of the well-known brands on the social media scene.
Goal: to get closer to our customers
In our original strategy, we accounted for what we could achieve via social media, including brand awareness, insight into the market and increased employee satisfaction. But our primary goal has always been “to get closer to our customers”.
In terms of our tactics, we decided to begin with Facebook, creating volume there, and then to build on that on other platforms which enable us to achieve different objectives for other target groups.
From volume to engagement
A year on, our fan graph looks like this:
This is not a particularly interesting fact in its own right, however. Yes, a critical mass is necessary to kick-start efforts. But it has much more to do with engagement – in other words, how well you can engage your fan base every time you post a new story?
We therefore conducted a mini-study in order to measure our performance against leading social media brands on Facebook (based on metrics that measure the number of likes, shares and comments linked to the last 10 posts against the number of fans), and the results were in our favour.
The Maersk Norwich whale
How did we achieve such a good score? We did it partly by attracting attention visually, such as by including users’ own Instagram photos of Maersk containers and ships. And we also did it by not being afraid to share both positive and negative stories, reflecting our efforts to be vibrant as well as credible.
An example of the latter was when we told the story about how one of our ships had called into port in Rotterdam with a dead whale on the bow. The ship had unwittingly sailed into the whale on the open sea.
We would probably not have been proactive about sharing such a story in the past. But in today’s world it is better to just come out and talk about what has happened instead of trying to suppress the issue. And this was obviously an unintentional event on our part.
So we prepared a short Q&A in which we asked ourselves where, how and why. We then created a Facebook post.
That particular post was shared more than any other, and all of the comments were actually positive.
We have since been praised for the way we handled the situation, and we even created an album on Pinterest featuring beautiful photographs of whales under the heading “In memory of the Maersk Norwich Whale”.
Among the other aspects of our social media efforts in general, it is worth mentioning the following:
Maersk employees on Twitter
We use Twitter in a very distinct way. Under the @MaerskLine profile, we share our more serious news with the shipping press and quite a few other people in our industry.
It is equally important for us to have a panel of Maersk Line tweeters. This panel includes a captain, an individual from our Graduate Programme and a number of Maersk directors, among others.
It is a simple and effective way to create transparency, to bring our employees’ expertise and diversity into play, and to ensure that the social media way of thinking takes hold within the organisation.
[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/52383530 w=460&h=259] In November, Maersk Line was asked a question on Twitter about how they were planning to weather Hurricane Sandy? This video provided the response on Twitter. The video was soon after picked-up and shared on Forbes.com.
Instagram: #maersk spotting
Our use of Instagram has been praised and emphasised by many experts. It is basically a way of exploiting the fact that our brand is so visually accessible all over the world. Most people are familiar with the Maersk star, even if they have never booked a container.
By sharing our pictures on Instagram, we have also managed to start a #maersk spotting trend: When people around the world see a Maersk container in the street or spot one of our ships at sea, they take a photo with their mobile phone and share it on Instagram – and from there it is shared on Facebook, Twitter, etc.
One of the outcomes of this effort is evident today: we have created a mosaic (in which it’s possible to spot the star in the middle, at a distance) featuring users’ #maersk photos. There are two versions of this picture: One of the versions is hanging in Maersk Line CEO Søren Skou’s office. The other version is hanging in the canteen at the Maersk HQ in Copenhagen, Denmark.
LinkedIn: Outside intelligence
It is one thing to have photos and get attention. It is quite another to exploit social media in order to gain knowledge alongside experts whom one would not otherwise encounter.
Our group on LinkedIn, which is called “The Shipping Circle”, is an example of the latter. We have used this forum to invite a number of shipping experts from around the world to have debates with us about the challenges facing our industry, opportunities for innovation, etc.
And this has paid off. This forum enables you – and us – to read extensive contributions from people who really know what they are talking about. One should not reject the possibility of ideas and thoughts emerging from this group ultimately influencing strategic decisions about the company’s future activity.
Global and local
Another challenge for a global company such as ours is that we have over 100 people working in communication posted at various offices around the world, where they work on local customer communication campaigns, particularly via email campaigns for now.
At one point during the past year they started to create their own Facebook pages, an initiative that was not really managed centrally. We solved this issue by giving them access to post local news on our global Facebook page instead of having their own local pages. We have set this up so that their posts are only visible to their own region.
This simplifies our global efforts, and it also ensures that we actually do get closer to our customers.
What is the value? And where are we going?
Finally, we should mention that we are currently working on a study which is investigating the value of social media for a company such as ours. It will also indicate how we can make the most of it in the future.
The study has already garnered attention, both from the press and from international B2B companies, since we are entering uncharted territory and challenging the status quo, one could say.
The study has been developed around a total of eight Google Hangouts (online video interviews) with a number of leading American social media experts who are willing to share their knowledge with us. Jay Baer, Michael Chui and Jeremiah Owyang are among the participants.
In this way, the study shows the way forward in two ways: It will not only give us a benchmark, but it will also demonstrate the value of social media, namely that we can become wiser more quickly and inexpensively today – and hopefully achieve a better result in the end.
Here’s an article that was featured on ShippingWatch.dk last month. Great to see that people are paying attention. You can read it here. There’s also a related article from the day before (included in the printed version on Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten).
Maersk on Facebook: A balance between openness and trust
Since Maersk Line joined Facebook, shared trust and greater transparency has been needed, and more so than the employees of the old company have been used to in the past. So says Jonathan Wichmann, the man behind Maersk’s active use of social media.
BY JAKOB VESTERAGER
Maersk Line’s solid position within the social media has at times been a balance between opening up to the public and keeping with the management’s reliance on Maersk Line’s name not becoming tainted, explains Jonathan Wichmann, Head of Social Media for Maersk Line.
“Social media is about sharing and thinking a little differently than how the employees of Maersk Line have been used to. Back then, if you had knowledge of something or a question about something, you would probably not share that with others. But now people are starting to realize that just because you explain how to do something, that does not mean everybody will start copy you. Only you grow smarter together,” says Jonathan Wichmann.
Maersk Line is trying to do just that by being present on a number of social media sites on which the company has set up forums for people in the industry as well as a Facebook page, on which the company has more than 300.000 followers. Jonathan Wichmann handles Maersk Line’s presence on the social media sites by himself, and about half of his working hours are spent on this task.
Wichmann is not scared that the open strategy will lead to negative publicity. He believes that the openness gives a company like Maersk Line more credibility, especially if you also upload things that are not altogether positive. For instance, Wichmann insisted that Maersk Line upload a picture of the ship Maersk Norwich which ran into a whale in early June.
“I had to persuade some people that we should do it even though it was not a positive thing. It is not a picture attesting our greatness – after all we collided with a whale. But it is probably the post which has been shared the most. It is an important parameter to consider when you want to reach as many people as possible,” says Jonathan Wichmann, who explains that he and others often monitor what the followers on Facebook write about a given picture.
“I am not anxious at all, but then again, I am not a Maersk man. Yet, from the beginning, it has been a kind of exercise in trust on part of the management. They thought ‘now we will try and see how it goes and see if you can work with us.’ If I do something that backfires then the trust is broken a little, but slowly they start to become more at ease with the situation and they see that it actually is not so bad when we write about the negative stuff and provide a more realistic picture of our company. It only makes us more credible.”
When Wichmann joined Maersk Line a little more than half a year ago, he had not dared to hope he would get the opportunity to launch a strategy for the social media as extensive as it actually became.
“I was unsure of how much they would let me work with it because it is such a large organization. So I did a presentation the first week I was there, it was for then CCO Hanne B. Sørensen and she approved it immediately. I went to work on Twitter, Facebook etc. and after two weeks, it was already set in motion. The management was a little skeptical and watched the number of friends on Facebook, but we got 13.000 friends in a very short amount of time and I think that convinced them to support the project,” says Jonathan Wichmann. Today, Hanne B. Sørensen is CEO of Maersk Tankers.
Facebook – a fad?
So far there has not been a lot of competition amongst shipping companies within the social media, and not many companies have a Facebook page or any other social media site. But Jonathan Wichmann is sure that most are considering it.
“CMA CGM has created a Facebook page, but not a lot is happening on there. They do not use it actively. I think there are a lot of people looking at us. I can feel them here and there. I think they are sitting there going ‘is this just a fad or should we do the same?’”
“Right now, social media is a fad but that is the way it is with all new things. But I think the social media is spreading and on the way to becoming a standard for how you do things in real life. Being part of a company and understanding the mechanisms of social media before our competitors is an advantage and likely to stay that way,” says Jonathan Wichmann.
In Maersk Line, we’re in the process of rolling out the use of Facebook to our global organisation, meaning that the more than 150 country communication managers situated in offices around the globe are now able to do local posts via our global Facebook page (Facebook.com/MaerskLine).
In doing so, I discovered a need from their end to better measure how good their posts are. Since they are only posting to a limited audience of e.g. 5,000 fans in their country it might be that 30 likes is extremely good – even though it doesn’t feel that way.
Therefore, I started looking into how you can calculate how good – or successful – a post is, and I ‘developed’ an engagement score and started calculating the score for 12 of what’s usually seen as the best brands in social media. Just to have something to benchmark our efforts against.
The Social Media Brand Engagement Score on Facebook
What I did was this: I took the average number of likes, shares and comments for the 10 most recent global posts for the different Facebook pages – and multiplied the comments and the shares with 4 and 2 respectively because they are worth more than a simple like.
I then divided that average post score with the total number of fans and multiplied it by 10,000 to get a more regular number… and that’s the score. Quite simple.
You might argue against the metrics behind this score in a number of ways, but I think it gives a good and clear overall picture of how good companies really are at social. And it’s very easy to use to calculate how well you (as a social media manager) are performing.
The outcome of the survey is also quite interesting. Here it is, without any further comments:
Red Bull 6.0
Oh, and did I forget to mention that Maersk Line’s score is quite, quite uplifting for us? We scored 37.0…
– – –
* = two of the posts had suspiciously many more likes (not shares and comments) than the rest, suggesting they were ‘bought’, i.e. promoted through FB Adverts.
** = if not for a single, very popular post the score would only have been 1.3.
Ok, right as I had promised myself (and my very few readers) that I would stop doing self-promotional scrapbook-like blog posts, I stumbled upon this podcast where Jay Baer and Scott Stratten (both top 5 social media influencers according to various rankings) start talking about Maersk Line, social media and… me.
You can listen to the podcast here – it’s right at the end.
Or you can just read along on this page, because this is the transcript of the part of the podcast I’m talking about:
Scott: Yeah, I have a couple of good guys out there. Really one that has fascinated me, the one in Denmark is a shipping line called Maersk.
On Friday 8 June, TradeWinds – one of the leading trade publications – told the story about Maersk Line in social media. The week before, they called me up couple of times, a bit surprised by the fact that Maersk Line has started to engage through social media to the extent that we have.