Mission: Impossible? How can UPS use social media to its advantage?

Yesterday, Ann Bernard (social media guru from WhyGoSolo – which is a site you must check out, by the way) posted on Twitter about her encounters with UPS and how she noticed on her receipt a message from UPS, which got me thinking about UPS’s perdicament. What exactly was the message that appeared on the receipt?

Attention Bloggers: If you enjoyed shopping at our store, and you own a blog for xx, we would love it if you can write something about us.

First of all, that’s rather untargeted and it seems to me that UPS is trying to ask for a hand-out. Granted, they’re probably assuming that everyone that comes to their stores may have a blog or at least a majority. And I’m sure that it doesn’t cost UPS that much money just to print that statement on a receipt as opposed to reaching out to qualified bloggers. In fact, wouldn’t it be better to try and form a rapport with qualified bloggers so you know that some people are actually reading their blogs? Heck, I could write about my experience with UPS but if no one reads this site (like right now), then how is that going to benefit UPS or me?

The issue that @AnnBernard brings up revives a great discussion I had with Doug Wright a couple of weeks ago at Tech Cocktail DC. He’s a great problem-solver and an excellent strategist. Believe me, I haven’t thought about marketing in this way for a long time and it was invigorating for me to have that conversation with him. So now I’m going to think more strategically & tactically about the UPS dilemma:

If UPS faulted on their social media agenda, what would a marketer suggest that UPS do to take advantage of the web 2.0 phenomenon?

  • Conduct a qualified and serious PR campaign to reach out to bloggers who discuss topics similiar or that affect UPS customers.
  • Reach out to the masses using viral videos simliar to the TV commercials to talk about the new capabilities and features of using UPS (e.g. UPS Whiteboard).
  • Establish rapport with customers by showing that there are real people working at UPS that lead simliar lives – sort of like a “Get to know UPS” – form a company blog that talks about things customers want, not just on financial reporting or things corporate America would care about, but also the middle-income customers.
  • Modify communication means to be more efficient – perhaps create widgets that people can share that’ll allow them to track their packages without going to the UPS website? Online chatting or a clear e-mail correspondence policy?

I’m trying to steer clear from saying things like going on Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, Second Life, etc. simply because those are tactical executions. From the perspective of a marketer, I’m assuming these would be a probably path to how to create an effective use of social media. Obviously you shouldn’t be doing social media for the sake of having social media and not all companies will find it applicable, but this is something to think about and create a case study for.

What do you think a company like UPS could do to make more effective headway into social media?

8 responses to “Mission: Impossible? How can UPS use social media to its advantage?”

  1. Candeleria Avatar

    hmm… interesting post. where do you get a ups receipt at, the ups store? I think that ups is already doing a couple of the things you mention – for instance, you can embed the tv spots and other videos on the whiteboard into a website, just like on youtube. widgets seem like a natural fit. I believe they launched a widget in the UK. I think the question for UPS or any other big company is, not only how you “get into” social media but how you make social media work for you – work for your brand – social media is all about connections in the virtual world, transport companies are all about connections in the physical world – what are the synergies there and how can you make one support the other?

    1. kyeung808 Avatar

      Great comments Candeleria. I think you're spot on when you question how to get social media to work for you. In my opinion, I think that social media is more of a tool/solution, but doesn't need or desire the services of a big company. It's still going to exist no matter what, but for a company like UPS or any other for that matter, they'll need to make this realm work for them if they're to generate big profits and increase their market share.

      I wanted to pose this as an open discussion post in that I was really engaged by the thoughts of Doug Wright and the “dilemma” posed by Ann Bernard. It gave me the idea of thinking strategically which a lot of us may be ignoring when it comes to web 2.0. Are there any other ideas that UPS or other companies could take advantage of strategically?

      ** I do not work for UPS nor am I being compensated for any ideas. I just wanted to challenge myself and UPS was on the top of my mind.

  2. Debbie Curtis-Magley Avatar

    Thanks for sharing your ideas about UPS and opportunities to use social media. I work with UPS Public Relations and I wanted to offer feedback on your post.

    Some of the ideas you shared are part of our communications practices, such as blogger outreach. As you may be aware, our Whiteboard Advertising campaign has triggered quite a few parodies on YouTube … it’s been fun to see the creativity expressed by others. We had success using MySpace and YouTube when we promoted our Delivery Intercept service last year. With the support of Archie Manning as our spokesperson, we invited people to submit videos of the best amateur football interceptions. And in Europe, we launched a tracking widget that’s actually attracted a following at Flickr where photos of the widget character and the ad campaign have been posted by the public.

    As you pointed out, social media offers a lot of strategic advantages to engaging customers. We welcome the ideas you shared and are flatter to be part of the conversation.

    One last comment … regarding the message on Ann’s receipt at The UPS Store, store owners have the ability to add customized messages to their sales receipts. Most likely, this store owner has had a positive experience with bloggers in the past. Each location of The UPS Store is franchisee-owned rather than being owned by UPS.

    1. kyeung808 Avatar

      Debbie – thank you very much for your feedback and I'm glad that UPS is actively engaged in social media. I did not know that your company was using these methods and applaud the efforts. From a strategic marketing point of view, I can understand how these would be engaging and lead to more productivity. Have these efforts been successful and are you measuring its effectiveness by more than the number of submissions and Flickr photos? Is there any measureability in the number of people actually using the Delivery Intercept service as a result?

      RE: the receipt at The UPS Store, I did not know that these messages can be customized. Is there any encouragement by UPS management to have the franchisee-owned stores engage in social media tactics or is this decision left up to the individual owners?

      1. Debbie Curtis-Magley Avatar

        So far, we’ve experienced success with our social media efforts. Delivery Intercept has exceeded its revenue plan. In fact, we’ve had over one million requests from customers to intercept shipments using this fee-based service.

        Regarding The UPS Store, we typically share blog postings (good or bad) with a franchisee when we can identify the specific store location. For both UPS and The UPS Store, we have contacted bloggers directly when we see an unsatisfactory service experience described in a post.

        1. kyeung808 Avatar

          That is extremely impressive. Thank you for sharing!

          For the UPS Store, you mentioned that you share blog postings with them when you can identify the specific store location. So the initiative to set up social media typically won't be with the owner, but rather UPS corporate?

          1. Debbie Curtis-Magley Avatar

            Our social media efforts are defined and guided by the corporate teams at UPS and The UPS Store. Since the store locations are owned and operated by franchisees (rather then by UPS), it's always possible that some store owners may take the initiative to promote their services through social media.

  3. Debbie Curtis-Magley Avatar

    Our social media efforts are defined and guided by the corporate teams at UPS and The UPS Store. Since the store locations are owned and operated by franchisees (rather then by UPS), it's always possible that some store owners may take the initiative to promote their services through social media.

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