The ethos behind social media is influencing all aspects of our lives. It is driving mobile communications, facilitating international trade and, in some countries enabling democracy. While social media presents a daunting prospect for some, there are compelling reasons for squaring up to the challenge and they go way beyond sales and marketing.
Firstly, the shipping sector deserves more recognition for its contribution to world trade; as a sector we must use all communication channels at our disposal to trumpet our achievements and influence policy for the future. Secondly, no company wants to find itself at the heart of a crisis without a voice on the web. Thirdly, social media and mobile communication are in the DNA of the next generation. Companies that don’t embrace it, risk looking out of touch to tomorrow’s employees, partners or customers. And finally, social media addresses some of the communication challenges experienced by global shipping companies with distributed teams.
E-learning is a case in point; at Coracle we recognise that what used to be known as ‘Distance Learning’ is now more connected and real-time than ever before. Our work today is as much about making good quality digital content accessible 24/7 on mobiles and tablets as it is about enabling sharing and peer-to-peer exchange of ideas and resources. In short, e-learning has become Social and companies and membership organisations alike, across a variety of sectors, are waking up to new opportunities for engaging with their members.
To create a successful social networking campaign, you need to be clear about your objectives from the start. Are you focusing on brand awareness, customer relations or lead generation? Ask yourself ‘what does success look like?’ then work out how you’re going to measure it. You need to think about your audience and what they want to hear from you; this will inform content and the tone you adopt in conversation. Take the time to check out what your competition and the trade media are doing – this could give direction to your use of social media.
Also, bear in mind that while many of the tools are free, you still need to invest in resources to manage your social media presence – or make sure existing staff members have time and expertise.
It is also wise to seek advice if you don’t know what you’re doing; it will save you time and money in the long run. It takes time to build a community in the networks; experienced social media users like the IMO (International Maritime Organisation @IMOHQ) and Maersk (@MaerskLine) didn’t get their 7,800 and 29,500 followers respectively on Twitter overnight. (Numbers correct at time of originally writing this article)
If it’s message generation you are developing, traditional communications channels still have a role, but you can amplify your message by joining up your social media efforts up with other business development and marketing activity. But remember that social networking is a conversation - people will switch off fast if all you do is shout about yourself or your organisation.
And social media goes beyond the feeds; new followers/contacts will refer to your website so it needs to look good and up to date. But it doesn’t stop there; make sure you’ve got plenty of digital content to link to in your posts – video, white papers, opinion pieces are popular.
My advice to companies sitting on the fence is to get started now. The ‘social agenda’ is pushing all of us. The likes of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube have shown us the opportunities and benefits of sharing. As a sector, shipping must adapt and grasp the commercial opportunity. A more all-embracing commitment to social media will be to the collective benefit of all.
To discuss social media and especially the opportunities around social learning, please contact the team at Coracle. We work across many industry sectors and we'd love to share our experiences with you.