I never understood social media marketing. To my best understanding, social media has never been about marketing. It has always been about communication. In essence, what happened 10 years ago with Facebook, MySpace and other social networks was that companies got sidelined as part of the web became social.
This is likely to be my last post about Maersk Line and social media. Last week I started in my new role as social media strategist and consultant at Wibroe, Duckert & Partners, so focus will probably shift now that the shipping game is over. So to speak.
The question I will try to answer now is this: “How can you use social media as a mass media-like marketing channel that drives business leads in the B2B space?”
Now that I’m on the verge of leaving Maersk Line to join Wibroe, Duckert and Partners (and while I’m still on paternity leave) I think it’s time to highlight a valuable lesson from my past two years in this great company. Unfortunately, it’s something I find I need to repeat again and again. Here it goes:
“Social media is about communication, not marketing.”
Yes, in case you hadn’t noticed, with social media we’re dealing with social networks, not a list of broadcasting platforms where companies can launch campaigns with the sole ambition to sell more. With social media, the users have finally taken control. They themselves control what they want to see, and they sure as h… don’t want to follow companies that are only there to sell to them.
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.
Here’s an article that was featured on ShippingWatch.dk last month. Great to see that people are paying attention. You can read it here. There’s also a related article from the day before (included in the printed version on Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten).
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.
(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.
I just came across Fred Cavazza’s updated overview of the social media landscape. By mapping the main players in/on the field and studying user behavior across the various channels, an actual center has now formed, according to Cavazza. And in the center we find… Google and Facebook.
To most, this is probably not very surprising. However, when you think about it, his new landscape model alters our standard perception of Facebook as ‘merely’ being a place where people can connect and share details about their lives via updates, posts, likes, movies, photos etc.
Facebook is becoming more like Google. The place where you start your digital journey. A form of navigator.
A new way to navigate
Why is it so? For two reasons, I suppose. 1) Because of the sheer size of the media/network (more than 750 million users); 2) Because the users are getting more and more accustomed to navigate according to social recommendations and interactions (“my friend is doing this and that, so I will do the same and check out what this link or story is all about”).
(It’s surely not because of the search engine functionalities of Facebook. They are not worth talking about, as far as I can see. But again, that’s due to media’s dependence on its social structure.)
So the user behavior is changing towards using social recommendations as a first step.
The end of the portal?
I can understand why. Google is so objective in it’s suggestions (in spite of Adwords, SEO etc.) that you need to be pre-occupied with something in order to benefit from it. You basically need to know what you’re looking for, in advance.
However, it’s not that we don’t need Google any more. Unlike many others, I don’t see Google and Facebook as competitors.
Those who should be worried about this behavioral change driven by Facebook are portals, news sites and similar, i.e. the sites users would normally go to in order to get updated on what’s going on in the world. And in order to get entertained.
A wake-up call for B2B companies…
Moreover, this tendency should underline the importance for companies to be present on e.g. Facebook. Many companies are of course already there, but most B2B companies still continue to struggle to see why it’s relevant for them. And how they can benefit.
So here’s the answer: Facebook has become the starting point for many, many users. And it’s therefore difficult to apply a multi-channel approach without a decent Facebook Page.