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B2B Use of Social Media Doesn’t Have to Mean Boring-to-Boring

Maersk Line

The star of B2B social media these days is none other than Danish container shipping line Maersk, and the company proves that B2B and social media can be a good mix and that a presence there doesn’t have to be boring. Where Maersk is concerned, it’s anything but!

The company has amassed more than 1 million likes on Facebook. It also has 73,000 Twitter followers, and 44,000 followers on its LinkedIn company page.

Not only that, it maintains a presence on Pinterest, Instagram, Flicker, Tumblr, Vimeo and Chinese social network Weibo. Oh, and it has its own social network, Maesrk Line Social.

The question is, why would a shipping company even care about social media, much less spend what appears to be an inordinate amount of time creating content for those sites?

A similar question was asked by Jonathan Wichmann, Maersk’s social media leader, who joined the company and started its voyage into social media two years ago.

“When I started, as far as social goes we were at zero – absolute zero,” said Wichmann in an interview with Forbes. “People would tell me, ‘We’re not right for social media, we’re boring, no one’s going to like us, and who will support us?’ A lot of people inside the company as well as outside just didn’t think it would take.”

That tends to be conventional wisdom when it comes to B2B use of social media. But Maersk has proven the naysayers wrong.

If you visit Maersk’s social site, you see this question front and center: “Why should a container shipping company be on social media?”

Click the “Read More” link and you find the answer: “To get closer to our customers.”

That response is telling. It suggests that Maersk’s audience – customers, employees, prospects and partners – use social media. And if the numbers cited above reveal anything, it’s that B2B and social media can be a good fit.

“For a company like ours social media creates most value when it challenges the way we think and interact. In fact, social media is a mindset, a way of thinking and working together. It’s based on the fact that we are social animals, and that means we can only benefit from sharing our thoughts and ideas with each other,” states the Maersk Line site.

One way that Maersk maximizes the value of social media is through the use of photos. “I came across thousands and thousands of remarkable photos in our digital archives, and not just of containers but of our ships and the oceans they cross and the various things you encounter in global commerce,” Wichmann told Forbes.

Visit any of the company’s social properties and you’ll see dozens of entries containing such photos. Each has its own story to tell, which is something Maersk does very well.

“I realized that there are so many untold stories… and that those stories would have broad appeal because Maersk Line is truly a global company,” said Wichmann.

What’s true of Maersk can be true of your company, as well. Case in point, Halo Supply, a manufacturer of wire rope for the oil & gas industry, has several videos uploaded to its YouTube channel, some of which have garnered more than 40,000 views. One video, Fabricating a 4-Part Chain Sling, has been seen nearly 200,000 times!

The keys to Maersk Line’s social media success can be found in two presentations given by Wichmann, which you can see at the end of this post. The first, Unlocking the Full Potential of Social Media, is Wichmann’s attempt to show the different ways social media can be used. The second, Maersk Line in Social Media, explains the Maersk approach.

If Maserk Line’s example teaches us anything, it’s that a B2B company’s use of social media doesn’t have to be boring.

Here are some helpful tips to make yours less boring too:

1. Use images

According to KissMetrics, an analytics and tracking firm, images and photos receive 39% higher interactions than average posts, and receive 53% more likes, 104% more comments, and 84% more clicks.

Include an image in as many posts as possible, regardless of the social network platform you use. Add some written copy to help shape the context so that people will understand what they are seeing.

When posting product-related images, try to show it being used by customers in a real-world setting. It’s best if you include people in the photo, as well.

2. Keep posts short

On Facebook, posts with less than 80 characters get 23% higher engagement. (Of course Twitter limits text to 140 characters, so you have to keep those short.) This principle is pretty much true of every social network, so be concise and save bloviating for your blog.

3. Post in moderation

Social media posts are ephemeral. The shelf life of a Facebook post is about one hour – and less than that on Twitter.

So, you may think you should post with frequency. Not true. Studies show that posting 1 to 2 times per day gets 40% more engagement than posting 3 or more times per day. You can post more often to Twitter, but don’t overdo it there either. No one wants to open their news feed or Twitter stream and see nothing but your stuff.

4. Schedule posts for optimal days and times

Facebook activity, for example, peaks around 3 p.m. Eastern Time each day. There are also spikes around 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. Wednesday seems to the be most active day during the week.

The best way to find the optimal posting times for you is by looking at Facebook Insights, the analytics engine that runs behind your Facebook Page. Look at the days and times when updates that received the most comments, likes, and shares were published, then schedule future posts to coincide.

5. Follow the 80/20 rule

A good rule of thumb is to make 80% of your content informational – that is to say focused on the needs and interests of your fans and followers. The remaining 20% can be more promotional, focused on your company, products and services.

6. Spread the love around

By that I mean, have a presence on as many social networks as you can manage. Each offers its own unique set of features and benefits.

7. Have a distinct purpose for each channel

Just because Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are all social networks, doesn’t mean that they should be mere copycats of each other. Have a unique purpose for each one and use them distinctively.

Facebook – Use it to reveal the personality of your company. Show what goes on behind the scenes and include light-hearted, people-centered content when possible. Customer testimonials and case studies work well here, too.

Twitter – It’s more of a news and information network than a social network. Use it to share information pertinent to your industry such as links to articles, blog posts, white papers and reports. Also, post new product announcements, special promotions, events you’re participating in (such as trade shows and conferences), or anything else that is time-sensitive.

Twitter is a great customer service channel, too, used by many companies strictly for that purpose. It’s also a gateway to content found in other places, so include links whenever possible.

LinkedIn – This is the true B2B social network. Create a Company Page to share information about your company, its products and services. Post career opportunities, and include status updates about your industry and company in the news feed to showcase your expertise.

8. Use hashtags

Hashtags are a way to keep conversations focused around a given topic or event, and they are used on just about every social network out there, including the ones mentioned above. Here’s an example from Maersk on Twitter.

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