31 May 2012
Shipowners have little choice but to move into social media but trust reigns supreme – Savahna Nightingale in the May 2012 edition of Fairplay.
The article focuses on two major trends is the maritime industry: social media and trust. While it is clear that social media is catching up with the shipping industry it is no longer a question of “if” but of “when” and more importantly “how”. Savahna Nightingale talks to industry leaders to find out.
With more people jumping aboard the social media bandwagon (see ‘Not immune from social media’, Fairplay, 29 March), updating, liking, pinging, tagging, broadcasting and tweeting their lives away, the impact on the shipping industry is clear.
Social networks will be the way in the future by which people increasingly combine their business and personal lives, Mark Stokes, group communications director at Lloyd’s Register, told the Pynda Forum at the International Maritime Organization.
Love it or hate it, social media can’t be ignored. That’s been reinforced over the past year by some seafarers’ embarrassing postings – including images – on Facebook and Twitter of inappropriate moments on board. In many cases, shipping companies’ branding was obvious in the images, sending a chill through owners who had been ignorant of such goings-on, which included consumption of alcohol.
The potential consequences of such activity in the event of a crisis or a safety matter are daunting for owners. “Social media and social responsibility are real. Giving staff the right training so they can appropriately represent your business is important,” Stokes insisted.
Several organisations have put social media to good use. Research by Rubicon Resolution, a risk consultancy, shows that pirates like to tweet, so the shipping industry is beginning to use the medium to help combat piracy: the IMO is documenting pirate attacks and tweeting about them.
Nor-Shipping has incorporated a fully fledged social media platform that boasts a dedicated YouTube channel, LinkedIn discussion groups and interconnecting websites. It aspires to be an industry ‘finger on the pulse’ for innovation.
A question of trust
Although e-commerce has been around for considerably longer than social media, Paul Ostergaard, CEO of ShipServ, an online marine supplies and e-commerce business, told the IMO conference that while online operations could bring positive benefits to shipping, trust is still the major issue.
“Trust guides much of our behaviour while we are online. In fact, trust governs many day-to-day activities, whether business or personal, online or offline. Undoubtedly it has been the hardest part to get right, particularly in the shipping industry,” said Ostergaard.
ShipServ implemented its own trust mechanisms with review and verification pages, enabling buyers to gauge each supplier by its activity and offering recommendations from peers. Stokes summed it up as: “Without trust, you have no reputation; with no reputation you have no business.”
He said social media had blurred the lines between business and personal life but more people will accept this over time as a one-way tool to communicate with friends and clients simultaneously.
Ostergaard sees the next step in online expansion being towards an economic model of sharing, swapping or renting access to products as opposed to owning.
“I truly believe that in the next few years, technology will turn some elements of trading back to its prehistoric roots through this new phenomenon of collaborative consumption,” he said