A few months ago I learned that the Maersk Line approach to social media is “radical”. I don’t see it that way. But I understand where it’s coming from: Our Social Media Team is rooted in Communication, not Marketing, and we therefore have a different approach to things.
We’re talking 20-25%. That’s the raise in knowledge worker’s productivity that McKinsey estimates can be obtained through internal usage of social collaboration tools. That number came out last summer through their social media report entitled The Social Economy, and the lead from the project, Michael Chui, was kind enough to join us in a Hangout to explain further.
More specifically, the point of McKinsey’s study is – and it’s based on an impressive and convincing amount of research – that office employees on average spend 28 hours a week or more than 60% of their time writing and reading emails, searching for information and attending meetings. Many of these things can be done more rapidly and efficiently through internal social platforms such as Chatter, Yammer and Jive.
Moving on from our findings regarding Social Customer Service, it’s now time to look at what we learned in Maersk Line’s social media study regarding Sales and not least the concept of social selling.
What is social selling?
Briefly put, social selling is about leveraging sales reps’ use of social media to perform better by getting in at an earlier stage in the sales funnel. It’s not about these employees spamming their networks/customers on e.g. LinkedIn and Twitter.
There are many good reasons why we in Maersk Line (and other companies for that matter) should care about social customer service, i.e. servicing customers via various social media outlets – in a structured way, involving colleagues from customer service.
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 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.”
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.
So, moving on from my previous post, let’s have a look at how we got started and what we’ve done to date in Maersk Line with regards to social media.
First of all, our approach has been one of insourcing. I was basically recruited to do the job, starting 1 October 2011, and I have been running with it ever since. This approach was chosen by management because they realized that it was the only way forward if it was to be credible as well as cost-efficient.
What has worked really well for us, and what the management fully understood, is the big amount of trust and empowerment that came my way. If you want to humanize the brand and ensure speed of posting you need to work with minimal oversight.
Where are we today?
So what’s the status after a year and a half? We currently have a presence on 12 social media sites, two of which are Chinese. We use these platforms in very different ways, with respect for the different users out there. However, a common trend spans the entire spectrum, namely that we regard it as a communication tool as opposed to a marketing exercise.
If you ask me, this approach does not make it boring, quite the contrary. Our presence is characterised as being very visual, narrative, trustworthy, based on that which is current and close to the business. Our aim is to engage and enter into dialogues. And we endeavour to humanise our somewhat hardware-driven business.
The top line (social) numbers
We have over 830,000 fans on Facebook, on which our engagement rate consistently falls between 5-10%. Also, we have 45,000 followers on Twitter, and 30,000 followers on LinkedIn.
In addition to all of this, we have 22,000 followers on Instagram. We have received considerable praise for our use of Instagram (and photos in general), even from Instagram themselves. Recently, we became one of their “suggested users”.
Here’s a short case video that summarizes what we’ve done the past year and a half (I know, I know, it’s a bit to the dramatic side):
[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/59990482 w=460&h=259]
From mass media to corporate journalism
But what is it worth? Perhaps nothing? We don’t know for certain. But we believe we know that there is much more to social media than… social media alone.
Social media is merely a concept. It is a measure of where the media landscape and technology have brought us, specifically to the point where technology has become so sophisticated that it is capable of mirroring our behaviour and the actual structure of society right down to the individual level.
In other words: a society consists of individuals who are interconnected. The same can be said about the role of social media. Away with mass media; today, that space belongs to the users. And in that space we all become editors of our own lives. How do I wish to present myself? Who am I? How do I want to spend my time? With whom? Where? Etc.
What is interesting for companies is that they are also, or have the opportunity to be, publishers of their own stories. Companies have become news media agencies in their own right. But they will not get very far unless they are trustworthy. This is where the concept of corporate journalism comes in: the most digitally-advanced companies have started to employ people who report on what goes on in the company with journalistic integrity.
After all, if you fail to divulge your mistakes, no one can learn from them, in which case the company stagnates.
“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 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.)