When I think of Pitney Bowes [PB], I think of postage meters, bar codes and Fax Machines. So I was pleased to learn recently that over the past few years, this Stamford, Ct-headquartered enterprise of 36,000 employees has evolved, through a series of acquisitions into a global software and services company. Even better, it has become extensively involved in social media, using it internally to collaborate across time zones and externally to not just talk with customers, but to become smarter overall through social media listening.
Most of what has happened in social media is attributed to the efforts of Aneta Hall, the company's emerging media manager and leading social media evangelist. She is a web designer who joined Pitney Bowes five years ago.
Q1. What social media tools do you use and how many of them have you introduced into Pitney Bowes.
My background is in Information Architecture and User Experience Design and my social media journey started by using various emerging and social media channels for conducting informal user research.
In addition to being a Twitter evangelist, I am a big proponent of wikis and using them as collaboration platforms. I've introduced wikis to Pitney Bowes and evangelized their usage for several social media projects. In fact, that process helped us create Pitney Bowes Social Media policies. We collaborated using an internal wiki page.
Blogging is another social media channel where I collaborate with individual Pitney Bowes business units to develop guidelines, train future bloggers and work on blogger outreach for various PB initiatives including our collaboration with the Women's National Basketball Association [WNBA] to promote literacy and our work with the American Red Cross to collect, process and distribute holiday mail to our military.
I consult on the strategy behind the Pitney Bowes User Forums as well as several Business Unit specific online communities. I am also engaged in several new initiatives including producing social media "friendly" online videos designed to affect people's perception of Pitney Bowes and showcase our employees as brand ambassadors.
Q2. As Emerging Media Manager you have described yourself as an "agent of change" in a company many people regard as a postage meter/bar code/fax machine company. Why does Pitney Bowes need a change agent, and what resistance is there to change.
I focus on two primary tasks:
- Internally, I work on how to most effectively introduce and evangelize social media channels across Pitney Bowes.
- Externally I focus on finding and developing the appropriate social media channels to listen to and engage in conversation with all external stakeholders.
For Pitney Bowes, a company whose portfolio of has evolved from a hardware provider to a global software and technology company, social media is a big part of our external communication strategy and provides a unique way to explain our value proposition and remain customer-focused.
Is there resistance to change? I would not call it resistance. At Pitney Bowes we have many marketers, operation and sales folks and members of management who are very keen on using social media, but who do not know how to properly incorporate them into their communication initiatives or don't fully understand how to mitigate risks associated with tactical transparency. Every company needs a champion of change to help with these issues and that's what I do at Pitney Bowes.
Externally, I often deal with social media participants who are not willing or are not comfortable engaging with a brand. The way to overcome it though is surprisingly easy by presenting yourself as an individual rather than a brand and second to always provide value to everybody you interact with.
Q3. Besides yourself, how many people at Pitney Bowes use social media tools as part of their jobs? Can you give me some examples?
There are several Pitney Bowes employees who are responsible for externally focused social media monitoring, online chats and forums/communities moderation. I don’t have a precise number since these employees are part of individual business units. For most of them, social media tasks are not the only activities they are responsible for.
Internally, Pitney Bowes employs two-way communication platforms including internal blogs to collaborate on important business initiatives such as identifying Pitney Bowes values and developing PB brand ambassadors.
Q4. When, how and why did you start using Twitter?
It's been over a year since I set up my Twitter profile. It started after I attended the PodCamp Boston3 un-conference in July 2008 where I wrote on my name badge "Aneta Hall, Pitney Bowes." I soon discovered that I made a big social media faux pas as no other participant (and there were many) included their company name on their badge. Instead, they included their Twitter handle. In fact, some participants did not even bother to write their real names. Their Twitter handle was all they needed.
This was a very real testament to the power of Twitter. Throughout my Twitter journey a great resource for learning the Does and Don'ts was Mark Carter's “Twitter Strategies and Connections” group on Facebook. I also had several mentors on Twitter including @Barb_G and @jquig99
I started using Twitter at first, for pure self-expression and partly to see how many folks would follow me back. It soon evolved into something much more valuable that includes finding and engaging with like-minded professionals all over the world. There is also this serendipitous part of Twitter that makes you want to open TweetDeck every morning wondering what's being talked about today.
Q5. What benefits do you see in Twitter for Pitney Bowes?
First, it's listening and understanding what's on the minds of the community Pitney Bowes engages with. Second, being helpful to our customers as well as others who want to know more about us. Third, advancing community-based initiatives such as "Holiday Mail for Heroes" (in collaboration with the American Red Cross)
Q6. There's a general perception that Twitter is more of a B2C platform than business-to-business. How would you respond to that?
Twitter is for individuals rather than brands. If you are willing to engage in conversation on a person-to-person basis, it does not matter if you are B2B or B2C - Twitter is the tool for you. Ultimately customer service and listening to customers is about people and not B2B or B2C.
Q7. What advice would you give to other large B2B companies about starting to use Twitter?
- Find employees who use and understand Twitter and let them teach you the proper Twitter etiquette.
- Start by listening rather than talking.
- Remember that your employees can be best brand ambassadors if you let them and properly train them.
- Never post a tweet without asking yourself whether this is going to create value for your followers.
- If you are dealing with a customer service issue respect your customer's privacy and move to a private communication channel to resolve it.
Q8. Can you tell me a good story about something that happened on Twitter that could not otherwise have happened?
Without Twitter I would have never had a chance to meet you as well as a whole bunch of fascinating individuals who proved to me on several occasions that web interactions on behalf of a B2B company can be personal and fun.
Q9. Do you see any downsides to using Twitter for a B2B company?
As long as you are willing to "walk the walk" in terms of staying engaged and having the resources lined up to help folks who reach out to you on Twitter for help I really do not see any downsides.
Q10. Additional comments?
Once again thanks for the opportunity to tell my story. There are not enough of us engaging in social media as brand ambassadors on behalf of their companies. Do we make mistakes? Sure we do, but these are huge learning moments that corporations need to experience in order to be the valuable member of the social media eco-system.