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.
If companies want to play a role in the new digital landscapes they need to realize this and think about the end users more than they think about themselves. If they do that, they will be rewarded. And long-term value through brand reputation and many other areas will be obtainable.
This goes for B2C companies, but it’s even more true for B2B companies.
However, it does not mean that you cannot sell through social media. It just means that it’s no longer sufficient to think like a marketer or a sales person. The key question companies need to ask themselves is this: “How can we create content or experiences that create value for our fans right here and now, irrespective of their buying behavior later on in the so-called sales funnel?”
Somehow this is difficult to understand for many companies. Maybe it goes against our instincts. Or just against everything we’ve learned about marketing before social media arrived.
But I’ve experienced it first hand: Each and every time I’ve made posts tilting more to the marketing-side of things engagement rates have dropped. No exceptions.
The difference between marketing and communication
So what is the difference between marketing and communication? Why am I so sure the latter is a better for social media?
In Maersk Line we did a small test on Facebook earlier this year. Our marketing guys had just created a small campaign around the fact that our Asia to Europe services were now calling Busan, Korea too.
First we did a very marketing-like execution on our Facebook page, playing around with the themes of East, West and artistry and adding a Van Gogh filter to a photo from the port in Busan. We thought it would be interesting to try something new. Here it is:
The post performed really poorly compared to our other posts. Although it did bring about 70 clicks on the link taking people to an article on maerskline.com from where we also linked to the campaign website.
But what’s wrong with the post? Well, first of all it’s too elaborate and complex. People couldn’t care less about our reference to artistry. If they wanted an art lesson they probably wouldn’t look to Maersk Line to get it.
Secondly, adding the Van Gogh effect to the photo from Busan doesn’t really work. People want amazing photos. And when I say amazing it includes real. It’s difficult to amaze people when they know it isn’t real.
Taking these things into account we shared the story again later that day (after the first Facebook post had died out). The new post was fully aligned with our regular way of posting, i.e. with a stunning image (the one that underwent a Van Gogh surgery earlier that day), a simple caption and the link to the website. Here’s the second attempt:
As you can see, this one performed much better. It actually performed better right from the first minute which helped it beat Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm, and through a much higher number of shares it also gained a larger reach than its predecessor.
The result? More than 300 clicks, or more than four times as many as the first attempt.
Case proven. Stop being creative. Just share it.
Can you be playful in a split second?
When people see a company post in their news feed they spend a split second in deciding whether they would like to engage further with it. So the photo has to be like or share-worthy in itself.
After having seen the photo they then look at the first 5-6 words in the caption and if they cannot detract any meaning from it at this point in time they will most likely move on. The first part of the caption should therefore explain the photo in simple words.
Again, why do any gimmicks if people are not ready for it?
If you really do want to be playful you should be so consistently and in a subtle, charming way – across everything you say. In my opinion, you need a very good reason (or idea) if you are to break this ‘rule’.
So what is the lesson learned from this example? It tells us that:
- You need to keep it real
- You shouldn’t over-think it
- You need a great visual
- You can still drive traffic to your campaign- or website
- Playfulness should be part of the tone-of-voice, not a one-off