There are all sorts of statistics embedded in articles that discuss social media and its influence within the shipping and offshore industry, as well as its utility when it comes to branding.  With over 1 billion users, Facebook’s reach touches a massive swath of people, yet its utility in the business world, along with other social media channels like LinkedIn, Twitter, and the gCaptain Forum, are still being evaluated.

I met some people at the SMM Hamburg conference last year and we discussed the subject of social media.  One of the individuals I spoke to appeared very concerned about keeping a tight grip on the company’s brand and was hesitant about opening up via social media.

Maersk Line had taken a completely opposite approach and according to Klout, an online influence measurement tool, they have the most influential online presence in our industry, even surpassing all the media outlets.

Social media defined

Social media is a medium that allows simultaneous two-way interaction and broadcast capabilities.  The internet has provided the technological link to allow websites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, gCaptain, Tumbler, etc to explode in popularity.  It’s also allowed individuals to gain certain levels of influence, or Klout, within whatever circle they communicate in, while at the same time, severely complicating the business models of respected news companies such as the New York Times.

This new era in communications is incredibly powerful, yet still viewed with hesitation.

The risk

No longer is a company’s message or brand a one-way discussion.  It’s now open to debate, criticism, praise, condemnation, or whatever else people have to say about it.

The reality

Tim Leberecht, CMO at Frog notes in his below TED presentation, “Your company’s brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room…At the end of the day, as hyperconnectivity and transparency expose companies’ behavior in broad daylight, staying true to their true selves is the only sustainable value proposition. Or as the ballet dancer Alonzo King said, “What’s interesting about you is you.”

I would further comment by saying social media enables truth to succeed.  When truth succeeds, safety improves, trust is gained, business is conducted ethically, more efficiently, and higher levels of interaction are achieved.

The following is the TED presentation I referred to earlier:


The gCaptain Forum

Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter all have something in common… Identity.

Your comments and broadcasts can be directly traced back to you and for some, that’s nerve-wracking because it opens them up to public scrutiny, whether good or bad.

I’ve never been one to shy away from public scrutiny which I suppose is why I do what I do, however, it’s somewhat limiting as a means to really get to the truth sometimes.  Highly controversial subjects are in many cases not discussed via these mediums because people don’t want to get involved- it’s not worth the potential scrutiny they may face.

The exception is the gCaptain Forum.

In an online forum like gCaptain’s, the option exists to be as anonymous, or as open as you feel comfortable with, so that users aren’t prevented from commenting for fear of personal scorn.  For companies, this is a highly beneficial situation because it allows them to participate in a discussion either anonymously or with their brand associated, depending on the topic.

Rumors can be squashed, information can be shared, and high level, global interaction can, and is achieved.   In fact, the Forum was the conduit from which news of the Deepwater Horizon disaster first came out.  For the months following the disaster, it continued to be a vital link between what was happening offshore and the mainstream media such as the WSJ and the NY Times, as well as a hotbed of discussion.

Anonymity brings with it however, a certain level of unfiltered “honesty” which for some, is tough to get past.

The gCaptain Forum is currently approaching 24,000 members and has nearly 10,300 discussion threads.

 

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