Engaging Your Company in Social Media With Pitney Bowe’s Wayne Kurtzman


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I recently had a chance to chat with Wayne Kurtzman, Manager of Social Media Marketing Listening and Insights at Pitney Bowes, to find out how an “old school” major brand moves into the social media age. (Get Wayne’s full bio at the end of this post.)

Eric: Can you provide us with some background as to why Pitney Bowes is active in social media?

Wayne: Many people associate Pitney Bowes with just shipping and mailing. They don’t realize that we have a complete global eCommerce side or that our location intelligence powers 1.3 billion check-ins. This gives us an incredibly diverse group of people we can chat with on social media.

Pitney Bowes Location Services Power 1.3 Billion Checkins Per Year

We look at it more than just business-to-business or business-to-customer, because first and foremost, social media is one person talking to another. It has become a more collaborative model than it was 10 years ago, where there’s real time communications and consumers are constantly connected. This affects both the consumers as well as the brands because brands are trying to move in that direction as the technology changes every day.

Eric: How does the idea of social media being about person-to-person relationships impact Pitney Bowes’ approach to it?

Wayne: Social media is social, meaning every person has an audience and every audience member has an audience, which is both beneficial and awful at the same time. With individuals, we try to keep what is relevant to them and solve any problems they may have. Do they need to know more information about a product? What do they need?

It’s much easier to work one on one, but be cognizant that there is an audience watching this one on one engagement. So one of the things we have taken an approach toward is a social literacy education. Not everyone understands social media and the implications of the audience. We want people to understand the benefits of a platform and how to listen.

You Are Always On Stage in Social Media

Listening is where it all starts. It’s where you can establish who that person is and what their needs are. The interactions that happen in social media are at light speed and are going to continue as the technology continues to evolve. So we want to educate our employees on the basic ideas of social media. This not only makes them wiser about social, but it protects the intellectual capital of the company. Everyone wins with an education program because it allows for better relationships with customers and potential prospects.

Educating employees about social media is a win all around - click to tweet

We have people in our sales department that are learning how to integrate social media into their daily workflow. We want to be where the customers want to have a conversation. So if it starts on social, then that’s where we need to be and not give them an email or a phone number. If customers want to bring it to the public, that’s where we can share valuable content. Sharing something of value is one way to get someone’s interest. We like sharing other people’s content more frequently than promoting our own because it makes following us more valuable to others.

Eric: You mentioned the notion of the sales team engaging in conversations on social media which is interesting because the first conversation with someone might not be sale-oriented at all.

Wayne: Agreed, virtually any first conversation should not be sales-oriented. We want every conversation to have value and we get that by sharing content or a comment. This leads to trust being developed which will make solving a problem or identifying an opportunity much easier. The important part is learning to give value, develop a relationship, and develop trust; which can come from a sales person, an employee advocate or someone outside the company.

Social media is about developing relationships and trust will giving value - click to tweet

Eric: I like to explain it this way. Imagine you’ve just moved into a new neighborhood and you’re at a neighborhood party meeting people for the first time. You don’t walk up to each of them and ask them for five dollars. You learn a little about them and try to develop a relationship first. You should use a similar approach on social media.

Give Me 5 Bucks Please!

Wayne: There are two examples I use. The first is, most of us remember a time when our parents would talk to the neighbors about what restaurants they go to. “This one is great, this one is bad,” they would say and they tell you why they go to different ones. Now, we’re on our smartphones to see who said what about the places we’re considering. The connected consumer is a huge driving influence over what to do. In fact, before anyone contacts a salesperson, they most likely have their mind made up about what they are going to do and why. A report from Forrester Research says that virtually 100 percent of decision makers in the U.S. and U.K. use social media for work purposes. So the question becomes not IF you are going to use social media, but how.

Eric: You need to be good at sharing other people’s content. You mentioned this notion, but I think you are alluding to the broader concept of, you lead the conversation by sharing value.

Wayne: Yes, the currency of social media is content that is both valuable and authentic. People can tell when something is less than authentic, but value can be different. Different topics have different audience sizes, but that does not make one more valuable than the other. That’s where it goes back to a one on one relationship. People are not niched into specific products or ideas. They are complicated with many different likes so you can have different touch points.

The currency of social media is content that is both valuable and authentic - click to tweet

Eric: Can you talk about the process of getting out of broadcast marketing mode and into this person-to-person communication mode?

Wayne: When I first started at Pitney Bowes, there were only a couple of us who understood what was happening with regard to connected consumerism. We brought people in different business units to mentor them by showing them what was possible. If we showed them about their product line they became interested. When we showed them their passions outside work and how social media could help, it became relevant to them personally in a much different way. They got it much quicker and were able to apply it. They saw what was possible and started engaging to build their personal brand.

Non-Commercial Conversations Build Trust

Internal training helped everything to fall in line with social media, which allowed us to develop an employee advocate program that teaches them [employees] how to engage and how to grow their own personal network, which strengthens the fabric of the company.

Eric: If you can make a connection with someone about something unrelated to the business, they could become much more receptive to the business conversation when the time is appropriate.

Wayne: Agreed, it makes it a whole new ball game. We look to share content that’s relevant and we constantly test that content. Is it resonating? With whom? No? Okay, move on. It’s the same with our teaching methods, how do we make this relevant to people? How can you help people do better and, in this case, showing them content that’s relevant to them, allows them to internalize and use this knowledge. We use internal social networks for this as well as various once a month meetings.

Eric: That’s right. The technology is a vehicle rather than the end, so to speak. The goal and the end goal is the relationships that get developed.

Wayne: It’s true. And I think Dan Keldsen and Tom Koulopoulos, in their Gen Z Effect book, pointed out that this is not about age anymore. Technology is becoming simpler to use, lowering the threshold. There may be – to borrow a phrase from Alvin Toffler – a bit of learning, unlearning, and relearning, but most anyone can do it.

If people have the basics, then the technology will be a facilitator for other features. I think focusing on relationships will not scale the way business would like to, but many of the metrics we use were introduced before the idea of the internet. So new metrics that are tied to the technologies and behaviors of today need to be installed. Using ROI where you can’t get the whole formula filled in necessarily, means that measuring the value of one-to-one relationships is a dynamic that we have to either learn to measure or learn to accept we can’t measure accurately yet.

Eric: How many people within Pitney Bowes are enabled to be active on social media on behalf of the company?

Wayne: We only have about 25 people at the moment, but we’ve trained hundreds of people to use social media on behalf of themselves.

Eric: Yes, absolutely. What are your thoughts on allowing employees to develop personal brands, but having it accrue to the benefit of the company?

Wayne: There is a distinct overlap which we should in our employee advocate program. You have key employees who have access to official information that we want to share that’s accurate and has been approved. They then have the option to choose if it’s of value to their audience. We give them the power to put it in their voice, using their personal handle and to disclose their relationship with the company to help build their personal brand.

But this also helps the company because, with the disclosure model in place, there is a lot of content that does help everybody. A company can’t do it alone. It’s a collaborative relationship because we want more advocates that can answer questions from their point of view. This strengthens both the brand and the individual.

Your Company Can't Do It Alone

Eric: I love that! The company can’t do it alone anymore. I love that. It’s a great reflection of, really, the right way to look at things as being, “Well, it’s not as much under control as it used to be.” The ability to control has simply been lost.

Wayne: The big difference now is using technology that is available to everyone. You can say “No,” and try to control it or you can leverage your team as one of your greatest assets. That’s what we do.

Eric: Many executives find enabling employees to effectively represent them on social media nerve-wracking. The first thing they think is, “What if they say something wrong?” What was the evolution like for Pitney Bowes to help the organization get ready for that?

Wayne: Employees will talk about whatever they want to, but if you can provide them with content, legal guidelines, and best practices then you are providing them with a way to succeed. So instead of hoping nothing happens, you are preventing anything from happening. It’s about giving them a place to talk about anything in the hopes of mitigating risk. It’s also great to provide people with knowledge that they can choose to share or not, because it tells you what they think is valuable.

By teaching people to use the new technology to do things they’ve done all their lives, like build relationships, it gives them more opportunity and a new set of skills. We have an app that will suggest content to people which they can reword or not. It has gone over very well because people want to help, but don’t know how or are sometimes afraid to try. This is how we scale social media, through our best asset: our people.

Eric: So the key message is to manage risk by enabling people to communicate and through education.

Wayne: The risk will always be there, so the question becomes, what are you going to do about it? Social isn’t going away and neither is people talking about you or your brands. It all comes down to what you are going to do about it.

Eric: Can you talk about the various kinds of programs that you’ve done with the goal of helping the audience?

Wayne: We did try a Twitter chat, which worked so well we’ve been doing it for several months. We will see quotes from our #PowerofPrecision chat, which can deal with any of our lines from big data and location intelligence to customer engagement or shipping and mailing. We will see quotes from that [in social media] for the next several months. We decided to ask someone to help us from outside our community as well as train some of our executives to join in. The results have been phenomenal. We are engaging through an outside moderator, internal moderator, our social media team, and people who normally don’t know what Pitney Bowes does. Suddenly, we are adding value to thousands of unique people.

Eric: It’s great that that works so well for you. It sounds like you’re experimenting with different things on a regular basis.

Wayne: Experimentation within the medium is really, really important. Also, knowing the audience is global becomes important because we can target our content. We always want to be locally appropriate because that adds relevance.

Eric: Yes, indeed. It is also very effective. I recently shared some pictures from London and a firestorm of responses happened from a post I put up. All this engagement happened because people I’m connected with people who work in England. It’s cool to see such excitement come from something so specific and local.

Wayne: Exactly. I think one of the best things we can do during a conference, is share content from the conference. This way we are reaching people beyond the walls of the conference center and adding value to them in an incredibly easy way.

Eric: Yes, it works because it’s clearly more targeted content. For example, you might share content focused on small business tips or something along those lines.

Wayne: One of the things we do that adds purpose is showing people metrics. One of my responsibilities is social analytics and I try to keep away from the vanity metrics. I do invoke the voice of the customer and share their likes, pain points and suggestions. It connects decision makers to our customers in a way that makes them and their voice more tangible.

That becomes extremely powerful because companies can speed up their development and fix things at a faster pace. So it’s both the ability to quantity what people are saying at a higher level as well as share the customer’s pain or joy in a way that makes it relatable.

Eric: Yeah, there’s a really wonderful point in there, too, which is the fact of having the employee base engaging in this way with people out there, makes their connection to the pain, or desires that those people have, more personal and creates more urgency for them in how they look at, “What can we do to make ourselves better?”

Wayne: Exactly, and it works well. Everybody likes a story. It may not always have the protagonist, it may have the conflict, and it’s up to the people in the room for the resolution.

Eric: You’ve talked a bit about the rate at which things are changing and new things are coming up. Can you expand a little on what kinds of things you think we might see in the near future?

Wayne: Technologies are opening up the door to collaboration, both with individuals and companies. I think we’re hardwired to tell stories from a very early time and how we tell stories is evolving at a rapid rate. If the SXSW conference is a good indication, (and it usually is) there are several areas to watch: If virtual reality takes off the way it appears to be funded to, then how people learn will change dramatically. It becomes even more learning-centric and individual-centric, where people can learn at their own speed and follow their own passions. How companies will use this for training, support or conversations is all up to the adoption curve. The emergence of a variety of wearables, now in its early stage, is also an exciting area to watch.

In many ways, YouTube has enabled that the first round of learning, as well as sites such as Khan Academy (www.khanacademy.org), where learning is user-centric and the educator is the facilitator and mentor. This idea will have different meanings in different places and it depends on the acceptance level. I think it boils down to every time something new comes along, grabbing it and learning as much as we can.

About Wayne Kurtzman

Wayne Kurtzman Photo

As Manager of Social Media Marketing Listening and Insights at Pitney Bowes, Wayne Kurtzman has almost 20 years of experience in growing community engagement around content and developing actionable metrics. Wayne has also taught and written on social media, analytics, and disruptive technologies. Prior to leading Pitney Bowes, Wayne launched several global social media and analytics programs, and led teams that developed online communities and knowledge management solutions that brought customers and businesses together to collaborate for better products that truly meet the needs of the customers. And he loves the shiny toys of technology.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Eric Enge
Eric Enge is a partner at Stone Temple Consulting (STC), which has been providing SEO Consulting services for over 5 years. STC has worked with a wide range of clients, ranging from small silicon valley start-ups, to Fortune 25 companies. Eric is also co-author of The Art of SEO book.


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