Joe Schaeffer

Paychex’s Joe Schaeffer on taking a long-standing corporate event and “making it social”

Joe Schaeffer, Social Program Manager at Paychex, got a call a few months before one of their big corporate events with those three words that make every social media manager scratch their head: “Make it social.”

“You all have the social button on the keyboard, right? We push that and little blue birds fly out,” he says in his presentation at our Brands-Only Summit.

Joe compares socializing this event to September 3, 1967, in Sweden when the country decided to stop driving on the left side of the street and start driving on the right.

Why? This sales conference is deeply ingrained in Paychex's corporate culture. It's an intensely private event for leaders in the company and top sales people. Joe says people really look forward to it, because it's as much about recognition as it is reward. And it's been around for 20 years. In fact, they just call it “Conference.”

“But I wasn't thinking of that. I was thinking of over 1,000 24-year-olds with Instagram at the open bar,” Joe says. “You're asking for chaos.”

From an employment brand standpoint, however, the conference was a content gold mine.

Socializing the conference was an opportunity to show Paychex as a great place to work and the conference as a great event on behalf of their employees. Joe says the key to making it work was planning and communication — taking the agenda and deciding on milestones during the event. For that, he recommends a one-page PDF.

“The one-page PDF is your best friend. It's defendable, extendable, and keeps everybody focused,” he says.

The goals: Keep it safe and simple.

To keep it safe, Paychex's event team implemented an event-based app which shared employees' posts with them directly to help them share and filter content. They could curate content from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram and share the best stuff through their corporate account. Joe says it's all about showing the examples you want to see back.

They also communicated internally through Chatter and targeted email. Joe says he kept the messaging consistent and spoke to some of his fears, ending every message with “Keep it classy, San Antonio.”

To keep it simple, they focused on contests, like taking selfies with VPs or low-fi posters made with the event hashtags. He says low-tech stuff like posters are not only great for low budget projects, but also an easy visual trigger for creating social content.

“If you put a hashtag on a poster, people will hold them and take photos with them whether you ask them to or not,” he explains.

Social influencers are everywhere in your company.

“Find your champions — they're not necessarily indicative of the org chart. We have first year sales reps that have more social collateral than my entire brand,” Joe says.

He says that took some direct emailing and targeting through Chatter, but it also meant getting out from behind the keyboard and finding these champions on site.

In the end, Joe says “making the conference social” wasn't quite as bad as “H Day,” the day Sweden changed driving lanes.

In fact, Paychex doubled their Instagram followers. They also earned over 2.5 million impressions and over 1,400 posts with a new photo from the event every two-minutes on the first night of the conference.

“There's my real gold mine, because that's the stuff I can use. I can put it into Storify, hand it to my recruiters and acquisition folks, or use it on Pinterest boards. This will self-sustain for the next 3-6 months.”

Say hi to Joe on Twitter and check out his full presentation at's Brands-Only Summit here. Joe's been a member of since 2013.