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?

By Ken Yeung

Ken Yeung is a journalist fascinated with the stories of the tech industry and internet culture. He's currently the Technology Editor at Flipboard, where he observes what's happening in the space while also identifying new topics of interest. In addition, he co-hosts the weekly internet show "The Created Economy," which focuses on what's happening to creators and influencers. Previously, he was a reporter for VentureBeat and The Next Web, covering tech startups, the industry's innovations and funding. Ken also has a newsletter you should also subscribe to called "Filed."