In less than 3 months, shipping giant Maersk Line has launched a comprehensive Facebook page and secured an astounding 100,000+ likes. They are using social media to establish more interaction with the many self-service customers, who normally don't have any personal contact with the company.
This is an unusual story for a business-to-business (B2B) giant, so I had a conversation with Mette Hermund Kildahl, Head of Channel Management and Head of Social Media Jonathan Wichmann at Maersk Line to better understand their social media approach and objectives.
Social media in a B2B context
According to Mette, Maersk Line have been working on creating effective web-based self-service solutions for the past decade. This has many advantages, but less interaction with customers can also create an unwanted distance to them. As Mette puts it:
Approachability and personality are our social media keywords. While we are a B2B company, our customers are people who just like in B2C also would like to interact with us.
Using social media combined with an improved website, Maersk Line wants to make themselves more available to customers and also make it easier for customers to find answers to their questions, while adding some personality to the brand.
To Maersk Line social media at the moment mostly means Facebook and Twitter. The two platforms are used on a daily basis to share stories, promote the website and measure the pulse of customers.
Maersk Line on Facebook
During the past couple of years, Maersk Line has been following the social media phenomenon and mostly listening to the conversation. While most companies turn to external agencies when they feel ready to get started, Maersk Line instead decided to turn to an internal resource in communication with social media experience from a past job. This meant that they could get started more quickly and it was easier to ensure business relevance from the onset. Also, they did not have to do an agency brief on the tone of voice, culture and social media objectives.
If you take a look at the Facebook page for the container shipping company, you'll find this interesting introduction to how they want to engage and build relationships with customers using social media:
We shouldn’t rule anything out, e.g. co-creating our next big product with our customers through social media platforms such as Facebook
Maersk Line decided from the beginning that the main Facebook Page should not be used for customer service, such as questions or complaints. This should instead be handled either on local Pages such as Maersk Line Belgium's Facebook Page or using Live Help or FAQ on www.maerskline.com.
The Maersk Line Facebook Page
Among some of the key elements you can find on the Maersk Line page today on Facebook are:
- explore all sides of Maersk Line with a collection of Instagram pictures. One of the purposes of this is to begin to build an archive of Maersk containers seen around the world and tagged by friends using their smartphone
- voices of Maersk Line is an integration with Twitter, where you can read tweets from different employees in roles such as the Captain of Adrian Maersk, the Head of Corporate Responsibility and a Graduate.
- questions, where customers are polled on container shipping questions such as this one: "Do you think shippers and consignees can help each other through discussion fora the same way customers do on e.g. Skype?"
- 5 house rules, e.g. stating that the Facebook page is not the right place for job applications and, that no questions about shipments and nothing offensive should be posted.
As you might have noticed by now, another unusual aspect of this approach to Facebook, is that it is very light on marketing and campaigns. The Facebook activities are based in the Communication department and this might be one of the key B2B differentiators.
New Facebook status updates are posted on a daily basis, also on weekends, with stories ranging from strike in Nigeria, slow steaming, substituting biofuel for bunker fuel, photos from the world of shipping and promoting new website updates. Here's one of the more popular recent status updates:
The only thing that Maersk Line has used external help for is getting the Facebook tabs programmed. The cost for coding this was very minimal and unlike usual campaign costs, the Facebook tabs are free to maintain and should be useful for years to come.
What Maersk Line has learned so far
In my conversation with Mette and Jonathan, they highlighted that they have both been positively surprised by the huge interest in the company on Facebook. It takes time and resources to build out the Facebook page and regularly update it, but it also gives them a new and direct channel to get instant feedback.
Similar to other communication activities, it is hard to exactly quantify and measure the business value of a popular Facebook page like this, but such a massive exposure should lead to at least some new business opportunities.
It has been surprisingly easy to get colleagues started on Twitter, so that they can be heard on the Facebook page using the smart Twitter integration. Even senior management has joined the Twitter panel!
The Maersk Line web and social media universe
If you look across social media, there are many different Maersk sites out there. Here are the 6 official ones used actively at the moment by Maersk Line:
Besides the popular social media activities, Maersk Line also has a beta version of their new website, where you can take a closer look at some of the new website improvements. Today website traffic only flows in one direction from Facebook to the website, but that might change in the future.
Finally, if you want to take a look at some other cool web activities coming out of Maersk, visit the Maersk Fleet site which uses HTML5, dynamic scaling and more to create a visual, engaging rich media experience of the magnitude and whereabouts of Maersk's fleet.
Learn more about social media
You can learn more about social media and share your own stories, in one of the J. Boye groups for social media professionals in Europe and North America.
At the next J. Boye conference in Aarhus in November, you can also attend a dedicated digital marketing conference track with several social media case studies and expert presentations.