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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Aneta Hall on Bridging New & Old: Social Media Series

Aneta HallThis week's guest for Flooring The Consumer's Social Media Series: Bridging New & Old is Aneta Hall.

Aneta Hall is marvelously passionate about social media, user centered web design, and encouraging those around her to engage responsibly in social media. What she does is that much more amazing when you consider that the company she works for - Pitney Bowes, where she is manager, emerging media - will be celebrating its 90th anniversary in 2010. And, yet, PB is embracing an electrifying range of social media initiatives.

I asked Aneta to detail some of those initiatives.

Pitney Bowes is active on Twitter, with direct handles: @pbcares (customer service on Twitter) @pbconnect, @pbnews and indirect ones: @anetah, @colettecote. The purpose: to humanize the Pitney Bowes brand.

Pitney Bowes has several philanthropic campaigns in the works. One is the Holiday Mail for Heroes done in 2009 in partnership with the American Red Cross [and described in Aneta's blog in this post]. The other is Fast Break to Reading done in partnership with the WNBA [details available on the Fast Break to Reading Wiki]. Increasingly social media efforts are helping to promote the programs, and encourage the spread of word-of-mouth enthusiasm.

Aneta details many of her explorations and social media success stories in her blog, about her thoughts on emerging media. For example, Pitney Bowes experimented with social media to activate or create more buzz around the 2009 World Innovation Forum and Fortune Brainstorm Tech [sponsored by PB]. Check out her post on the subject: Social Media For Event Activation.

Then, there are the PB User Forums, and the PB Connection Center Blogs, focused on thought leadership in technology, mailstream, innovation and CRM; it's a fairly new initiative with details still being worked out. Finally, Aneta is currently working on the company wide Social Media governance model.

I met Aneta at the MarketingProfs B2B Forum in Boston this past June and was struck by how engaged she is in bridging from traditional to new, and by how fully immersed she is in learning from and absorbing the social media marketing world unfolding around us. If you don't believe me, check out her observations about Shel Israel’s Twitterville – Book Bash or the recent PodCamp Boston.

Follow Aneta on Twitter @anetah or subscribe to her blog: anetahall.com.

C.B.: Aneta, how/why did you get involved in social media?

Aneta: I've yet to meet a person who became involved in Social Media as part of a carefully thought out strategy. I did not have such a strategy either. I am a trained linguist with experience in hospitality management who fell in love with the web back when being a web design generalist was a sought after profession. After coming to Pitney Bowes I focused on Web Information Architecture and user experience as a way to specialize. What I gained from that was a deep appreciation and empathy for the person on the receiving end of my company's marketing and communication's efforts. I found this close relationship with customers and prospects to be extremely useful for what I do now which is to teach others in a large company how to engage in Social Media responsibly and with full appreciation for this direct medium.

C.B.: What do you like most about social media?

Aneta: There are so many things about Social Media that I love. But one of the most important ones is that Social Media is allowing me to witness something quite special in the history of consumer marketing where the industry is forced to re-invent itself from a one-directional push model to a fully interactive, much more transparent conversation often referred to as "social marketing." Have marketers and particularly B2B marketers mastered this new craft? Heck no, at least not yet. We are still very much learning this new model and being here, along for this crazy ride, is quite a thrill.

C.B.: What do you like least about social media?

Aneta: I hate to see Social Media be applied as a bandaid for companies who lack an overarching go-to-market strategy and who provide poor customer service. Responding to customer complaints on social media is not a substitute for a quality product and top-notch customer service. Social media is not going to help you sell more widgets if these widgets are not of the highest quality and not paired with exceptional customer service.

C.B.: How has social media changed how you interact with the marketplace as a consumer or customer?

Aneta: Like many other consumers I love to take advantage of real time search and being able to interact and receive real-time customer service though Social Media channels. I've done that successfully on several occasions. I think the real time web search that Twitter provides is a huge opportunity for brands to wow their consumers and companies who are not experimenting with it now are missing valuable learning opportunities.

I also take full advantage of crowd-sourcing and don't make purchases without checking customer reviews. That's another huge opportunity for companies to invest in social media outreach instead of fancy re-branding campaigns. Let's face it - your company's true brand identity is found by listening to the voice and comments of your customers and converting them to brand ambassadors by acting on these comments.

C.B.: What 5 suggestions do you have for companies to implement so they can more effectively bridge old media with new media and connect with end users?

Aneta: Only five?

o If you have not engaged in "ambient listening" across Social Media channels, what are you waiting for?

o Your existing customers are your best brand ambassadors. Pay attention to them and treat them well on Social Media Channels and elsewhere and don't be afraid to consider good customer service your most important marketing expense.

o In order to sustain a deep and meaningful Social Media engagement your company must realize that PR and marketing resources will not be able to sustain this effort alone. Train your front line employees, your subject matter experts and your management to take an active role in supporting your social media initiatives. Don't forget to arm your employees with guidelines to keep them and your company safe while talking across Social Media channels.

o Don't measure social media engagement using traditional marketing metrics. You can't measure engagement by counting impressions!

o Don't forget to be authentic and transparent. That's the way of the future!

Thank you, Aneta!

What are your thoughts about social marketing?

And, what about focusing first on the highest quality paired with exceptional customer service? Is that what your business is about?

Have you noticed your customers taking advantage of 'crowd sourcing'? How has that affected your business?

What are your reactions to Aneta's 5 suggestions?

For additional insights from other participants in the Social Media Series: Bridging New & Old, please visit The Entire Bridging New & Old Series.

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