Maersk Line sets B2B social media example

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The container shipping giant with operations in 125 countries came to the attention of the social network after winning the European Digital Communication Award in September for the “Social Media Campaign of the Year”, which was praised as an example for other B2B companies to follow. In less than 11 months the Danish company was able to attract more than 400,000 fans on Facebook and establish an extensive presence on other platforms.

Now Facebook wants to talk to Maersk Line to find out how they managed to generate so much traffic in such a short time.

The right mix of channels

“We have been very explorative,” says Klavs Valskov (right), Director of Communication. “Being on social media is about trying different channels out.” Maersk Line operates nine with Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter at the center of its strategy.

Google+ Hangouts are used to hold smaller press briefings when the company is launching new initiatives. “Three to four journalists can log on and have a live video conference with some of our executives,” Valskov explains.

The communication team uses Facebook to reach out to followers which include NGOs, employees, potential employees, competition, suppliers, regulatory bodies and “a surprisingly large crowd of shipping nerds and enthusiasts,” Valskov says.

He continues, “Seven thousand of Maersk Line’s 25,000 employees are seafarers and Facebook has become an important channel for them to connect with colleagues, people at home, and follow what the company is up to. They are very proud to be sailing on our big blue ships and love to tell people about it. They publish tons of pictures from their every day work including pirates coming close in the Bay of Aden or dramatic pictures from the bridge in heavy weather at deep sea.”

Turning bloggers into tweeters

Twitter has become an important part of Maersk Line’s media relations strategy. “We have a lot of journalists following us and we can see that they download our press releases from Twitter.” The Danish trade press has been quite intrigued by the fact that a traditional shipping company has embraced social media with such conviction. Maersk Line has ten official tweeters, which include the chief commercial officer, the head of anti-piracy and business managers.

“At the start, we gave them advice on who to follow, how often they should tweet and on how to make tweets sound interesting and less corporate.”

The communication team has used internal blogs to spot potential tweeters.

“Take our head of sales and customer service for example. He writes a popular blog read by 500 of our employees. He gets his message out in a funny way. He is a Liverpool fan and uses football anecdotes in his posts. He was obviously an ideal candidate.”

To create further synergy between internal and external channels, Maersk Line’s intranet has a feed displaying the company’s external tweets.

Vibrant conversations

LinkedIn serves a different purpose and is considered a more “serious professional forum” where they company can have conversations with customers. Valskov has created a discussion group for the Daily Maersk service, which ships cargo from Asia to Europe.

“We know which customers are using that, we have their email addresses. We have invited them to be part of this group because we want to be able to monitor what they say and spot trends. A vibrant conversation with our customers can tell us much more than a survey.”

Maersk Line also uses LinkedIn to bring together shipping experts to discuss issues like piracy, trends affecting the container industry and innovation. This is how the company came across the idea of a container that can be folded when empty to take up only one tenth of the space of conventional containers.

“We were like… ‘Wow, where did that come from?’”, says Valskov.”It goes to show that if you open up online and create the right conditions for a discussion, you could come across ideas that are worth billions.”

Learning from ‘container spotters’

For Maersk Line’s communication team getting into social media was also about observing online behaviors and learning from them.

“We have tons of ‘container spotters’ in our industry,” says Valskov. “They love Maersk containers. They take photos of them and upload them on the internet. We knew this phenomenon existed… so we thought ‘why don’t we do it ourselves?’”

That’s how Maersk Line embarked on Instagram and Pinterest. More ideas for online content came from the company’s archive.

“There are a lot legends and myths out there about our founder Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller, who died earlier this year at the age of 98. People go nuts when we upload photos and videos of him and his family that were never made public before.”

The same applies to images of old Maersk ships from the 1930s. “Our Facebook fans love them. We get many ‘likes’.”

Valskov believes that a company can only be ready to embark on social media if it is comfortable with its platforms. While measurement and constant monitoring are essential for getting management’s support.

“I update our leadership every quarter on what we are doing with our channels. They can see that I am keeping an eye on them and making them efficient.

It’s about quality and engagement, not quantity

Social media measurement in Maersk Line is more about quality than quantity. To measure engagement on Facebook they came up with a formula. Take a sample of your latest ten posts. Add their number of ‘likes’ to the number of comments multiplied by two and the number of ‘shares’ multiplied by four. ‘Shares’ carry more weight because in sharing content with their followers fans take ownership of a message.

The sum of these factors is an indicator that Maersk Line has been using to benchmark their Facebook performance against that of other multinationals like GE and Lego.

When comparing engagement scores against other world leading brands, Maersk Line – at 37.0 – ranks only second to Lego’s 48.0. Disney is number three at 34.2, followed by GE’s 32.9, Shell at 19.1 and Ford at 17.2.

Showing internal communication leadership

Maersk Line is now thinking about internal social media. Valskov believes that communicators have to be braver and show the leadership needed to make decisions about internal channels and strategies.

“A large amount of time is spent in internal discussions about the right platforms. Everybody wants to be invited to the table and have a say. But we communicators often have the right vision from the start as we are used to thinking in terms of audiences.”

His advice to fellow communication professionals is “be ambitious and take some chances.”

For an additional look at Maersk Line’s social media efforts, visit http://www.maersklinesocial.com/.