A Few Words with Vistaprint’s Jeff Esposito (@jeffespo)

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When I was asked to host a Tweetup at the New England Direct Marketing Association’s annual holiday party last month at Tavern in the Square in Porter Square (Cambridge, MA), I knew right away who I wanted to have on the program.

Victoria Smith

Victoria Smith

For entertainment, I turned to Victoria Smith, a very talented singer and songwriter, who put on a fabulous show for us.

As for the educational piece, I asked my friend and former colleague, Jeff Esposito, to permit me to interview him about his experience with social media as a public relations manager at Vistaprint. Jeff is one the most prolific people I know in social media, having tweeted over 48,500 times to date, not to mention all the blog posts he writes and videos he records. Seriously, Jeff’s knowledge in this space, not to mention his energy, is off the charts.

Sitting at a small round table at the front of the crowded restaurant, surrounded by a rapt audience of NEDMA members and guests, Jeff and I had an awesome discussion that night about how he uses Twitter, Facebook and the like to help Vistaprint enhance its brand, provide customer service and sell merchandise. The interview went over so well that I thought it would be great to feature some of his thoughts on social media here on my blog. So I asked Jeff if he would be kind enough to answer some of my questions in writing, and he graciously said yes. What follows is our written “transcript”…

Bob: Please tell us a little about Vistaprint.
Jeff: Vistaprint is an online provider of marketing materials for micro businesses and the home.

Bob: How does Vistaprint typically communicate with and market to its customers?
Jeff: Like many companies involved with NEDMA, Vistaprint is a direct marketer that leverages a number of marketing channels. These include everything from catalogs and direct mail to search engine ads and TV campaigns.

Jeff Esposito

Jeff Esposito

Bob: When and how did Vistaprint get started with social media?
Jeff: We started out in social media in 2008 around the time of Stephen Baker and Heather Green’s cover story in BusinessWeek entitled “Beyond Blogs.” After reading the article, the PR team was tasked with figuring out Twitter. We listened for six months or so to get a sense of how the network operated. When we first started tweeting, we were told that we were doing it wrong, so we asked the community what they wanted from us. With that feedback, we altered our strategy and then applied that to other networks as they emerged (including Facebook, which at the time was not open to non-students).

Bob: What is a typical day like for you there?
Jeff: Every day is different. Our team engages with customers from 9-5 on Facebook and Twitter. We also take a look at how the company is being mentioned across social media sites in comparison to our competition.

Bob: How do you measure the success of your social media initiatives?
Jeff: We look at a number of different areas for success in our social media program including direct revenue from social media, conversation share, equated net promoter score and SIM score.

Bob: What have been some of your biggest challenges and successes?
Jeff: One of the biggest challenge to any company working in social media is finding the time. You will never have as many resources as you would like for this ever-evolving channel so it is a matter of working within resources. It is also important to evaluate opportunities on new networks and if they are something that your company should embrace right away.

Bob: Does Vistaprint have a social media policy and, if so, what does it include?
Jeff: Our policy contains what our employees are and are not allowed to do within social media. This mostly focuses on speaking or acting on behalf of the company.

Bob:What is your favorite and/or most successful social media channel?
Jeff: It is hard to decide and is like choosing between your children as a favorite. On one hand, Twitter is great for getting quick-hit updates and conversations which are very valuable. Facebook on the other hand is great for building up a community and longer-lasting relationships with customers. The network also offers really good metrics to see if your efforts are paying off.

Bob: What do you feel are some of the biggest benefits of using social media?
Jeff: The biggest is in building relationships. Social media is also a very good at seeing unfiltered commentary on your company from your customers.

Bob: Can you name some other companies that are using social media well?
Jeff: Locally, Boloco is company doing some pretty innovative things via social media. On a more global scale, I always keep tabs on what DellFord and Major League Baseball are doing. Recently I have been keeping a close eye on the NFL teams in the playoffs that are doing some pretty cool contests for their fans.

Bob: Who has had an influence on you in the field of social media?
Jeff: The list could go on and on, but the five I always look at are Julien SmithGeoff LivingstonOlivier BlanchardJason Falls and Laura Fitton.

Bob: What advice would you give to others who are trying to learn social media or install a social media program at their place of employment?
Jeff: The biggest thing is to go in with a clear plan and goals. Pick what you are going to measure and stick to it. Without a plan or measures, you are setting yourself up for failure.

Thanks, Jeff. And thanks to those of you who took the time to read my “interview” of Jeff. If you have any questions about social media for him, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment here on my blog or feel free to contact him directly via Twitter, Facebook or his blog. I’ve listed his, along with Victoria’s, contact information below.

Jeff Esposito’s Contact Information
Twitter
Facebook
Blog

Victoria Smith’s Contact Information

Twitter
Facebook
Website

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