Vincent Washington

Vincent Washington on proactive social listening at UPS

“It's a pretty fun gig, until it isn't,” says Vincent Washington, UPS' Social Media Manager.

“We have a great opportunity to humanize our brand,” he explains. “When you're a 100-year-old company, there are tons of stories.” In his presentation at our Member Meeting in Chicago, Vincent says there's never a lack of things to talk about with UPS in social media.

But, with uncooperative weather, stiff competition, and the constant “where's my package?” question, it can also get pretty overwhelming.

Vincent Washington

“We're the ear of the company.”

Since Vincent's team is also a part of customer support, they're responsible for hearing their customers' complaints and knowing where the volume is coming from. He says that's given them the incredible opportunity to act proactively on the business' behalf.

For example, people began to take to social media to protest UPS' involvement in shipping packages which could be a part of an illegal shark fin trade. Vincent's team listened to the complaints and brought reports to their senior leadership which ultimately helped UPS make the decision to get out of that business.

“Not all social complaints are just people complaining. They can actually have a positive impact on your business,” he says. “There has to be a better use of social then just listening and sending reports.”

Vincent shifted his team's focus to proactive social listening — starting with surfacing business opportunities.

They began by asking one of their sales representatives about one of their premier clients and their next big sales call to renew that business.

From there, Vincent's team did their research on the client. Through social listening, they created a detailed report on what their customers were saying about the client, opportunities for improvement in shipping and inventory, and what the client's customers were saying about UPS.

Social listening allowed UPS to show the client they could help them higher up the funnel.

They found ways UPS could help counteract inventory problems as well as introduce the clients to some potential social influencers they might not be thinking about.

“We wanted to show them that UPS was thinking about their business beyond when it's time to ship a package. We had a wealth of information for how we can help customers on the front end,” Vincent explains.

Of course, these reports were met with great reception from the sales team and the requests for more began pouring in. And since then, they've created over 100 different sales reports.

Not all social complaints are just people complaining. They can actually have a positive impact on your business.

The US spent $145 billion on content in 2015, and only 60 percent of it was discovered.

With a staggering statistic like that, Vincent's team began using proactive social listening to make their content more discoverable. He says their mentality used to revolve around guiding the conversation: “We'd talk about one thing, work all fall to create a conversation around it, then throw it into the market and see how people would respond to it.”

Now, they've taken a step back to listen to what people are already talking about first.

For example, with so many people worried about the Zika virus, Vincent's team surfaced content they already had that could meaningfully contribute to the conversation. UPS, after all, is a key player in vaccine distribution — especially temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals. “When we surfaced content we already had related to this issue, engagement went through the roof,” Vincent says.

Proactive social listening is helping them meet their goals, but they're not done yet.

Vincent says with social listening, they've been able to listen and react better to the social conversation as well as create compelling content to match people's interests. They're expanding their capabilities with social selling and beginning to track sales before and after their social listening reports to measure their effectiveness.

“We're positioning ourselves into the right conversations and not constantly trying to create a conversations ourselves.”

Watch Vincent's full presentation at our Member Meeting in Chicago here to learn more about how Vincent's team helped UPS employees — including a transgender pilot, world-champion mandalay player, ambassador to Rwanda, and an Indian dancer — participate in a TED event. Vincent has been a member of since 2013.