A few years ago, FedEx determined that social media is more than just a channel or a fad.
“We have agreed to address it as a practice,” Renee Horne, director of digital and social media engagement, told an audience at the Blogwell Chicago conference last week.
With that perspective, FedEx has dealt with some big crises, built successful venues for communicating with customers, engaged employees, and changed its culture as a whole, Horne said. It took what she calls “social courage.”
Building a foundation
Making social media an integral part of FedEx took more than just setting up a Twitter account, building some Facebook apps or making use of internal social media tools.
“What we quickly found out was that it was more about change management,” Horne said. Everyone at FedEx had to get used to a new way of communicating, one that was more about dialogue than one-way communication and giving subject experts and other employees the opportunity to shine.
To make that happen, FedEx’s social media team carefully built “what we call our playbook,” Horne said. That playbook includes the company’s social media policy and use guidelines, but those “are really just the entry ticket,” she said. It also gets into timing messages, the brand’s voice, and whom to contact when things might get too big for a single employee to handle.
“We decided, collectively, between corporate communications and marketing, that we would go to market with one voice,” she said.
The company also came to a conscious decision in regard to who within the company “owns” social media, Horne said: no one—and that makes it everyone’s responsibility.
“The community own social; the consumers own social,” she said.
Horne presented four examples of ways FedEx has successfully shared stories with customers:
1. The Enchanted Forest: This Facebook app gave fans the opportunity to engage with something magical and fantastic, Horne said. It also communicated an environmental message, including how FedEx is reducing carbon emissions and the company’s plan to plant tens of thousands of trees. FedEx promised to plant a tree in the rainforest for each user click on a link in the Facebook app.
On average, users engaged with the page for four minutes, and it had a 91 percent share rate, Horne said.
2. The Panda Express: “Pandas have a wonderful story to tell,” Horne said. So FedEx told it, from a range of perspectives.
When the company shipped two pandas from China to France in January, employees involved in the process blogged about their specific roles.
“We had thousands of comments and visitors,” Horne said. “People love unique, really engaging stories.”
3. Small Business Saturday giveaway: FedEx partnered with American Express to give away gift cards on Facebook and “had some amazing engagement around that,” Horne said.
When a glitch in the app made it so some users didn’t get the gift cards they were promised, sentiment quickly turned on FedEx.
One thing Horne said she learned? “If you’re going to do a giveaway online, don’t do it all at the same time.”
After discovering the glitch and the complaints about it, Horne wrote a blog post about the whole process. Soon after, a discussion began among people in the community—some still mad, others defending the company for conducting a giveaway in the first place.
“Sometimes let the community do their thing, and step out of it,” Horne said.
4. The “rogue courier”: FedEx’s response to one of its delivery men casually throwing a computer over a fence has been well documented, but Horne offered up one key takeaway from the whole fiasco.
“You have to own it,” she said.
Engaging the workplace
To get its employees on board with social media, FedEx’s team “realized we needed to go a lot deeper” than just one hourlong workshop. So team members ended up developing an online curriculum with 17 courses.
In about 18 months, more than 500 employees had completed the coursework, Horne said.
“This is probably one of the best investments we could have ever made,” she said.
To convince leaders that investments in social media platforms made sense, Horne said she and her IT partners discovered some of the “hidden dollars” that departments were spending to build their own, ad-hoc technology to connect and seek out experts.
“We had already paid for this maybe two, three times over,” she said. “That’s how we made this case.”
To test employee involvement and participation, FedEx launched IamFedEx.com, where employees could share personal stories. The venture was so successful, it’s open to the public now.
“We realized, wow, we should just let people tell their stories,” Horne said.
Matt Wilson is a staff writer for Ragan.com.