What is the value of social media? Maersk Line’s social media study (part 3)

4 instagrams
Four of @MaerskLine’s own Instagram photos. From left to right: A bird’s-eye view of Edith Maersk; the stern of Emma Maersk; a bus being discharged from Olga Maersk in Bangkok the 1950s; and the “Wall of #maersk” in our CEO’s office.

In my previous posts about Maersk Line’s social media study I wrote about first that social media has to somehow add value to the bottom line, secondly I summarized what we’ve done in the first year and a bit. Now, it’s time (finally) to look at the actual study.

In light of our current (and future, I should add) minimal use of resources, we decided to complete the study by internal means, i.e. we wrote it ourselves. But we also decided to try involving leading international experts through a number of so-called Hangouts on Google+. This was a success.

From singular to complex value creation
The very first question we were able to answer concerned the value of our past and present value creation via the social media. This exercise was almost absurd. First of all, it is impossible to quantify added value of this kind conclusively, since it originates both directly and indirectly, both in the short and long term.

Value creation is no longer (and probably never has been) singular. It is quite all right to measure singular outcomes, but if one wants to document the total business value, simply looking at a few quantitative parameters is pointless.

Nevertheless, we were able to determine that the Return on Investment (ROI) from our Facebook page is approximately 1500%. And the results are even better on Twitter, where we have barely used any resources but have a base of followers which has a 15x greater pull.

In other words, our average Twitter follower is 15 times more influential than the average Twitter user, and when we share something on Twitter, we therefore tend to find that it ripples out into the networks of most relevance to us.

What’s next is what’s interesting
Jay Baer, the President of Convince & Convert and a leading social media strategist, played a major part in the study. He said:

“It is of little value to look at the value of what you have achieved, or of what you are achieving right now for that matter. The important thing is what you intend to do going forward.  Only then you will find out what it is worth, and that will depend on what you do now.”

“Through your explorative approach to social media, you have managed to bring the company culture with you. You have generated momentum, and that is the most valuable of all that you have achieved, because that is what you need to build on.”

Jay Baer, one of the world’s leading social media consultants  according to both Forbes and leading on magazine Mashable, talks about what we’ve done in social media in ‘year one’.
Jay Baer, one of the world’s leading social media consultants according to
both Forbes and Mashable, talks about what we’ve done in social media in ‘year one’.

Jay Baer continued: “Bringing the culture with you is by far the most difficult task. Even large companies, which are one-tenth of your size, cannot get it right. They are afraid to let go, as a result of which their social media programme dies before it has even begun.”

Detrimental not to adapt
Michael Chui, who was the driving force behind the social media study published by McKinsey last summer, made it clear that social media can no longer be ignored. It is imperative for all large companies to adopt social media as an integral part of the organisation, or, as he said to us in one of the first Hangouts:

“It will be detrimental for companies that are unable to adapt and exploit the social technologies and the associated optimisation opportunities. This may not happen this year or next year, but it will not be long. If you do not do it, your competitors will, and then, sooner or later, you will be outperformed.”

Michael Chui of McKinsey in a Hangout with us. In the Hangout, Michael Chui went through all the major findings in McKinsey’s social media study – and helped translate the findings into the world of Maersk Line.
Michael Chui of McKinsey in a Hangout with us. In the Hangout, Michael Chui went through all the major findings in McKinsey’s social media study – and helped translate the findings into the world of Maersk Line.

Next step: to get it out into the business
That was the evaluation part. We then shifted our focus to what we should do in the future. The McKinsey study outlined 10 ways in which social media or technologies can create value for large companies. Of those 10, we identified the four we considered to be the most prudent for us to focus on in the coming years.

Besides our current area, in which we communicate via the official Maersk Line channels, which is an approach rooted in our communications department, we will focus on our customer service, sales and internal use of social technologies for collaboration purposes.

Next post: How we plan to use social media in customer service.

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.

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.