Maersk Line’s 10 social media commandments (or: how we work with social media, more or less)

REFINA_MAERSK_441505a(Below is a follow-up on the previous post, “The Media Miracle in Maersk Line”. It’s the English translation of Maersk Line’s “10 social media commandments” which Danish comms site Kforum.dk asked me to write.)

§1 It’s communication, not marketing
It sounds simple, but it’s not. This is where most people get it wrong. Most companies – and their agencies – simply don’t understand the premise itself, namely that social media are the users’ domain. It’s akin to a dinner party. Marketing therefore doesn’t work, unless one would like to avoid being invited back the next time around. Be honest and engaging and ensure that you are on an equal level. Don’t create designed, marketing-oriented stories. It has to be simple and authentic.

§2 Do it yourself
At Maersk Line I have pretty much done it all myself. I was given the mandate to do it and then took ownership of the project as anyone else would. My boss was completely confident about my strategy once it had been approved, and the fact that social media platforms are so easy to use means that you don’t need outside help. Besides, it comes across as untrustworthy when an agency posts messages on behalf of a company. You have to be in the thick of what happens at the company and be able to pick up stories and trends from there. This enables you to react immediately and to avoid having to wait for the agency to conclude a meeting with another client first. Finally, you have to be passionate about it and ‘live it’ every day.

§3 Keep costs down
I would imagine that the amount we spent had a lot to do with why we won “Social Media Campaign of the Year”. Since everything has been created internally, we haven’t spent more than just under USD 80,000 in a year and three months. This has been spent on advertising on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, on a so-called publishing tool and on some tabs on Facebook. We have done the rest ourselves.

§4 Don’t be afraid
You don’t know yourself and your audience until you get started. So you will need to feel your way. And you have to keep testing. Outline a sound strategy and some ideas in advance, but be prepared to learn and make adjustments constantly. An interesting aspect of social media is that you get feedback immediately, which means that the learning curve can be very steep. What works where and how for us? Which stories are relevant to both us and our target groups? I have set up profiles on various networks pretty much to suit my own preference. I have just thrown myself into it.

§5 Improvise
People tend to think that this aspect of what I do is far-fetched. But I haven’t planned a single post throughout the entire year that we have been doing this. You just sit down at the keyboard or use your mobile phone when there is something to say and then you do it as well as you can. Conversely, if you plan to send out a certain story next Wednesday at 12:00, it then turns into a marketing exercise. Then you lose the moment. And then you (or the agency) also spend too much time on it.

§6 It has to be simple and visual
There is a reason why Twitter has limited tweets to 140 characters each. It’s because there is practically no one who wants to read much more than that. Don’t convince yourself that everything you have to say – or your company has to say – is exciting. The users decide whether to spend time reading your post, or not, in a split second, based on a combination of what is said in the first few words and whether they usually find the company’s information relevant. And then there is the visual aspect: a good photo can change everything (fortunately, Maersk Line has a lot of fantastic photos).

§7 Tell stories
One of the growing trends at the moment is that companies have started to hire corporate journalists. It’s about ditching the marketing plans and taking on people who can unearth and tell stories in a lively and credible way. And this includes both good and bad news. Or rather, it’s not about being positive versus negative. It’s just about telling a good story that reflects reality. It is therefore also imperative that the company really is ‘good’ and has nothing to hide. Otherwise this wouldn’t be the smartest approach.

§8 Ensure the organisation is behind it
The most important element of being responsible for the social media is to ensure buy-in from the rest of the organisation. Having a few people engaged in it in isolation doesn’t work. Social media and technologies have a lot to offer any company – and they could even be seen as introducing a paradigm shift. In the ‘old’ days, people in business were convinced that it was important to keep one’s knowledge close to one’s chest in order to avoid losing power or status. Today, people have increasingly come to realise that the better you are at sharing your knowledge, the more influence and status you have. And that way of thinking and working should preferably spread throughout the entire organisation, and thus enable social technologies to optimise the way people think and work. Another reason why it is important to ensure the organisation’s buy-in is that its users (the company’s fans, followers, etc.) would like to meet its employees. People need to see a face behind the company. By making the company more human, you start to build credibility and trust with your customers. In addition to this, one’s colleagues can help answer questions posed to the company on Twitter, for example.

§9 No mass distribution
When a company such as Maersk Line has a presence on ten platforms, people might be led to believe that this must result in ‘mass distribution’, i.e. that we share the same content everywhere and, in reality, just push impersonal messages out to the public. In fact, the opposite is true. We have a presence on all of those platforms because it makes sense for us. We are there because we want to communicate and because we are curious. If this had been all about campaigns, we would actually not have been on so many platforms. If that was the case, we would rather have targeted a certain target group on a specific platform. When I see a company that participates in a relatively small number of platforms, I take it as a sign that they are there with a campaign approach in mind: “Let’s do a Facebook campaign, that would be cool.” My advice in that regard is: be where your presence feels natural. But you should only participate on as many platforms as you can cope with and you need to allow for the vastly different forms of expression and target groups on various sites.

§10 Build on what you have done
My final suggestion is: keep pushing the envelope and testing the limits of what social media and technologies can do for the company, but make sure to also test the water. We just finalised a larger scale study on social media and where we are going with it. And there is much evidence to suggest that social media will, on this basis, soon spread to departments such as Customer Service, Sales, HR, etc. And yet we still adhere to a ‘lean’ set-up. It is not about building something big, but about building it correctly. In this case that means across the organisation. There will be no NASA-type command centre, although that could look pretty awesome.

This last point is probably the principal doctrine of ours, namely that “Lean is Fun”.

The media miracle in Maersk Line

Maersk bov
(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.

The home page of Maersk Line Social, a website dedicated to telling stories about and for the social media. (http://maersklinesocial.com)
The home page of Maersk Line Social, a website dedicated to telling stories about and for the social media. (http://maersklinesocial.com)

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:

Fan graph year one
The growth in the number of fans of Maersk Line’s Facebook page.

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.

Engagement-score comparison between Maersk Line and the leading social media brands.
Engagement-score comparison between Maersk Line and the leading social media brands.

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.

The post on Facebook describing Maersk Norwich’s encounter with a whale. Note the so-called ‘like-to-share’ ratio which is almost 1 to 1.
The post on Facebook describing Maersk Norwich’s encounter with a whale. Note the so-called ‘like-to-share’ ratio which is almost 1 to 1.

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.

Top: Maersk containers spotted at Stockholm Central (shared by @mgnfq). Bottom left: Edith Maersk in Hong Kong (shared by @MaerskLine). Bottom right: #maersk mosaic in the CEO’s office.
Top: Maersk containers spotted at Stockholm Central (shared by @mgnfq). Bottom left: Edith Maersk in Hong Kong (shared by @MaerskLine). Bottom right: #maersk mosaic in the CEO’s office.

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.

Jay Baer & Scott Stratten: “Just be awesome!”

ImageOk, 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.

Jay: They were on the Social Pros podcast, Maersk Lines.

Scott: That’s how I learned about them.

Jay: See how it works. It’s circular.

Scott: That’s how much I love it. If you haven’t listened to that podcast, listen to it.

Jay: We’ll link it up.

Scott: I phoned the guy. I phoned him in Denmark and said, “You need to talk to me right now and tell me how the hell you did this.”

Jay: He’s great.

Scott: You’re a container shipping line. Go listen to that podcast. If you guys could link to it, that would be perfect for the guys.

Jay: We’ll do it.

Scott: Look at what they’re doing, and it’s one of those things where I’m saying when you’re industry is know as not being awesome, it’s the best time to be there, because nobody else is doing it.

Jay: Talk about shattering expectations.

Scott: Go do it. Please check them out. You’ll do yourself a favor. Look at how they get likes and they get community, but they understand that social media is about being social, and it’s one guy.

Jay: One of the best Instagram programs I’ve ever seen too.

Scott: Twenty hours a week is total of what they do. There are 100,000 employees. A million people recognize the brand. One guy. You can do something like that. Just be awesome.

Jay: Fantastic. Anything else?

Scott: No, that’s good.

Jay: All right.

Scott: Let’s stick with Denmark for now.

Jay: Fantastic. As a quarter Danish, I appreciate your shout-out and thank you very much. Always good to see you. This will do it for Episode 19 of Social Pros.

The Maersk Line in social media story once again… interview in TradeWinds

ImageOn 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.

You can read the article on The Last Mile Blog.

PS: To be honest, this blog is becoming a bit too self-promoting, which is not the intention, really. I hereby promise myself to do less of these scrapbook-like blog posts.

Maersk Line in social media: A webinar with spotONvision

Last Tuesday, on 5 June 2012, I presented the “Maersk Line in social media” case on a webinar hosted by spotONvision, the company behind the B2B Marketing Forum in Amsterdam.

You can read/browse through the presentation here, if you (or anyone) should find it interesting.

Why 300,000 fans on Facebook could turn out to be worthless

Mark Zuckerberg on stage, talking about engagement.
But just how engaging is Facebook really?
(Image credit: news.cnet.com).

(This blog post was originally published on Maersk Line’s intranet)

By Jonathan Wichmann, Head of Social Media, Maersk Line

People just can’t help themselves. The crowds are cheering. The media is telling the story (even the shipping press). Experts are using it as a best practice case. It’s even in the Mærsk Post.

In short, everyone (almost) I meet tells me how amazing it is.

I’m of course talking about social media.

Of course, I appreciate all this attention and enthusiasm. But we risk missing the point if we focus too hard on the numbers.

Why? Because social media is not just about being popular and getting attention. Having a lot of fans is valuable (and it means that we prioritise our social media interactions), but the real value (for the business) of social media has to do with high quality engagement.

The value of social media

In theory, the value of one interaction can be worth more than 300,000 likes on Facebook.

Let me give you an example:

On LinkedIn we’ve created a group called ‘The Shipping Circle’. Here, we’ve invited shipping experts to join discussions about the future of the industry.

Some of the members have written long and very insightful posts about what we could do next in order to remain at the top of the shipping game.

What I’m trying to say is that it is a real possibility that just one single good idea from here could turn out to be worth millions, if not billions, of dollars.

Compare this to the value of a ‘like’ on Facebook.

It’s a way of thinking

For a company like ours social media creates most value when it challenges the way we think and interact. In fact, social media is a mindset, a way of thinking and working together. It’s based on the fact that we are social animals, and that means we can only benefit from sharing our thoughts and ideas with each other.

This leads me to the most brilliant part of social media: it doesn’t discriminate. The housebound and the shy are as visible as the active and the outspoken. Even those who are not very social in real life can share their thoughts too.

Maersk Line can definitely benefit from this. Time will tell when and where.

Instagram Lessons from a Giant B2B Company: Interview on Convince & Convert

This is an oldie by now: A couple of months ago I was interviewed by Jay Baer and Eric Boggs for an episode of Convince & Convert‘s Social Pros podcasts, a series where they basically talk to frontline social media people to get a hands-on perspective of the social media world.

You can listen to the interview here. Or download it here.

Some of @MaerskLine’s own instagrams side-by-side. Screendump from Flickr.

In short, they were impressed by the huge following Maersk Line has gained in a few months (e.g. 174,000 fans on Facebook at that point in time), and I explained the background of our social media engagement and the many different things we hope to achieve through our different social media channels.

Among other things, I explained about the visual track in our programme using Instagram and  Facebook and encouraging users to take photos of ships and containers and share them. That’s how the podcast got its title.

Scott Stratten about Maersk Line’s social media efforts

Not the worst kind of feedback you can get. Scott Stratten heard Jay Baer’s interview with me on Convince & Convert and phoned me up to get more input because he wanted to talk about the Maersk Line case in his keynote at the B2B Marketing Forum in Amsterdam, 20 March 2012.

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/39774141 w=500&h=281]

 

“Social creativity” vs. ROI: Why hard metrics don’t matter in social media

Miles Davis is a good example of social creativity. Not only was he one of the greatest improvisers in his field, he had an innate ability to reinvent himself throughout his career.

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.

Social creativity

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.

An article by J. Boye about, well, my work for Maersk Line.

Last week I was phoned up by Janus Boye who is the CEO and founder J. Boye “the international community for web & internet professionals”. In other words, a quite influential blogger on things like internet and not least social media.

Maybe it’s due to the fact that Janus is a Dane, but he had nevertheless noticed the recent success of Maersk Line within social media. And he found it to be interesting and even surprising, given the fact that Maersk Line is a B2B company in a quite conservative industry. The background being that B2B companies have struggled for years to find meaning in and reasons to engage with social media.

In a way, we in Maersk Line have somehow succeeded in paving the way for other B2B companies. Quite flattering if you think about it. And maybe stretching it a bit too far.

You can read the article Janus wrote here.