An open letter to the shipping industry: Don’t underestimate the power of social and sharing


On 30 September 2013, I left Maersk Line after exactly two years at the Headquarters in Copenhagen. In 2011, I was brought in from the agency side with the primary aim to get Maersk Line started on social media.

The project appealed to me right from the beginning. Not only is Maersk by far the biggest company in Denmark (almost 20% of Denmark’s GDP). It’s also surrounded by myths about life behind the ever-closed bluish windows in the infamous “Building with the blue eyes” in Copenhagen.

How to generate leads in B2B social media? Or: The story of @MaerskLine’s #wintermaersk campaign

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?”

How to use social media for B2B marketing campaigns? Stop being creative. And forget that you’re trying to sell.

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.

Marketing, journalism or just being there? The story of four Maersk Line timelapses

Following my last post which touched on corporate media and the journalism vs marketing discussion, I think there’s something to gain from looking at the recent production of four Maersk Line timelapse videos.

The point in my previous post (many others have said the same, most notably Tom Foremski) was that in the age of social media companies need to tell the stories that are already there. They shouldn’t try to invent the content. As many modern novelists will attest to there’s always an interesting story to tell – if you can see it, and know how to tell it.

This idea (coupled with a growing need to be trustworthy, human and transparent) led me to the conclusion that companies need to hire journalists, not marketers.

Hire a journalist, not a marketer: A view on how corporates should do social media

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 not trying to manufacture anything. Rather, we’re trying to tell the stories that are already there, including those that are important for the business to communicate, e.g. about our new incredible mega ships, our efforts to reduce bunker fuel consumption, our knowledge within refrigerated transport or simply the company history.

Apart from focusing on stories that are vivid, crisp and visual, it’s crucial that they are honest, down-to-earth and credible. Otherwise they don’t travel well in social media, if at all.

[vimeo w=460&h=259]

The exception that proves the rule: This timelapse is evidence that we do ‘manufacture’ stories a bit from time to time. Almost 1 million people have viewed it so far. 

Social collaboration and why a cultural journey is necessary: Maersk Line’s social media study (part 6)

Australia's Olympic women's coxed eight races during a training session at the Sydney International Regatta Centre

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.

Social selling and teaching where our customers learn: Maersk Line’s social media study (part 5)

A magnetic pull like the one needed when doing social selling
A magnetic pull of scrap metal, not unlike what sales reps should strive to achieve via social selling. Painting by Michael Kareken. “Magnet” (2010), Conte, 24″x18″.

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.

Social customer service and the Man in the Machine: Maersk Line’s social media study (part 4)

A screenshot of @AskCiti, Citibank's Customer Service handle on Twitter
Citibank’s Customer Service handle on Twitter – @AskCiti – is a good example of how you can humanize your brand and (most likely) improve customer satisfaction by getting some of your named customer service employees plugged in.

Moving on from my previous post about the value of social media and future directions for Maersk Line, it’s now time to zoom in on one of the new areas: Social Customer Service.

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.

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.

Getting started with social media: Maersk Line’s social media study (part 2)

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 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.

Next up in this short series: What is the value of social media for a B2B company like ours?