You might call it plagiarism. And to some extent, it really is. I just find – not least after reading this article by Alexis C. Madrigal in The Atlantic – that what @HistoryInPics is doing is really, really interesting.
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.
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.
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 http://www.vimeo.com/62085613 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.
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.
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.
“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.
Next up in this short series: What is the value of social media for a B2B company like ours?
“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.
So that’s what my next post will be about.
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.
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.