(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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.
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.
Social media managers today can be divided into two groups (roughly speaking, of course):
1. Those who stick to hard metrics and let data determine their decisions.
2. Those who trust their intuition and just go ahead and post what they feel is right.
So what group do you belong to? Well, you should belong to both.
Out of the blue comes… nothing
As written earlier, if you apply social science and the concept of ‘social creativity‘ it becomes evident that you cannot be successful in social if you cannot perform social creativity, i.e. if you’re not capable of adding something new (that’s the creative part) and value adding to the social group you’re engaging with.
However, social creativity very rarely adds value if it’s not rooted in the a firm understanding of the behaviour and history of that social group.
This leads to a very clear conclusion about what social media managers should do in order to be successful:
1. Use metrics, data, theory and knowledge to give you a firm understanding, and keep measuring so you can get even wiser down the road – but don’t use data to decide what you post, when you post it etc.
Data should be used to review the past.
2. Make sure to maintain an explorative, improvisational and authentic approach on a day-to-day basis, and try to avoid setting up very tangible, quantitative goals for the performance of your social media programme – in a social game, it’s just not right to judge a success only by the numbers.
The human touch, the intuition should guide the now, i.e. content creation and the actual posting (don’t pre-plan any posts!).
The more long-term, strategic decisions (the future) should be based on a combination of the two.
That being said, I realise that there are quite big differences between brands and industries.
For instance, in a start-up phase in social you don’t have much data and will tend to put more weight on the explorative part.
But when quantity and data is in place, the mode will likely – or should – shift to a more data-driven approach – even on a day-to-day level (again, depending on the brand and the strategy).
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.