Introducing Orca Social, a member-based social media consultancy

Orca_Logo_dark grey_5Earlier this week, we (Ed Major and I) launched a new company called Orca Social as we see a need for large B2B companies to make better use of social technologies. Visit the website here.

The key for B2B companies is to learn to do social from within. The alternative is grim: If they engage external resources it becomes costly, slow and inauthentic. And, even more important, they miss out on the chance to break the silos and nurture a culture on which you can scale the social efforts to include e.g. social selling, social media customer service, social listening, internal collaboration etc. Continue reading “Introducing Orca Social, a member-based social media consultancy”

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”.

Data-driven or human? You can be both.

Combining data and bright ideas. It can be done. Photo: screendump from crispsocial.com.

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.

The conclusion?

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.

Then again…

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).

“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.