How Hapag-Lloyd changed the game on social media


While everyone is fighting for attention on Facebook and the usual social media channels like Twitter, users are increasingly moving their social activities to messenger apps. Marketers need to follow, and messenger apps do in fact offer many opportunities.

Brian Tomlinson is social media manager at Hamburg-based shipping giant Hapag-Lloyd and shared some thoughts with me in regards to Wechat and Whatsapp.

You need to be where your audience is

Facebook is seemingly a monopoly-like media company and even though many companies are increasingly getting engaged with Facebook, people are in fact less active on Facebook than they used to be. The activity on Facebook has declined for several years.

One of the reasons is the arrival of many new social media contestants, but also the fact that people have moved many of their conversations from the public sphere to the more private and intimate messenger apps.

In the early stages of Web 2.0, circa 2005, many organisations were reluctant towards social media, because they feared losing control of both brand and message. Eventually most have accepted the fact that they need to be where their customers are.

Customer dialogue compared to Facebook

A main concern with Facebook was the plurality of people engaging with the organisation; public dissatisfaction could quickly spread like an epidemic. This gave birth to the term shitstorm with famous examples like United Breaks Guitars from 2008.

Many of the challenges organisations are facing with Facebook are obsolete in a messenger apps.

Messenger apps offer two-way communication which effectively eliminates these concerns. In a way, something like customer service in a messenger app brings the personal one-on-one communication from the classic customer service into the digital sphere, but with the advantage of requiring fewer resources.

The potential for direct marketing compared to email

The huge potential for organisations engaging with customers on messenger apps lies not only in customer service, but also in direct marketing.

As Brian says:

Email marketing is still considered to be a relatively efficient way of reaching your customers, even though a 40% open rate is quite phenomenal”

With SMS marketing the open rate is a staggering 99%. Obviously the question is whether the open rates for marketing on messenger apps would resembles those of email or those of SMS.

Brian argues the latter for several reasons, one of them being that for a growing number of people their preferred messenger app has replaced SMS. We could expect to see a relatively high engagement.

Hapag-Lloyd looking to the future


For now Hapag-Lloyd will first and foremost be looking to move into Wechat as depicted on the screenshot. Wechat has over 700 million users in China alone; with 93% of residents in Tier 1 cities using it at least on a monthly basis.

In the beginning Hapag-Lloyd will be doing more generic content such as company news, but later the plan is to offer a more customised content.