USPS OIG Blog: The Social Medium of Mail

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Browsing and posting on social media sites is a fun diversion and an easy way to keep up with friends. But have you ever considered how visiting and posting to a site helps keep it alive? Your participation is, in fact, vital for the site’s success, even if you never paid a penny to use it.

People gravitate to the social media platforms that their friends, acquaintances, and favorite businesses are using. Sites rich with people and stories relevant to your life hold your attention and encourage you to post or share things. Sites lacking these essential elements won’t keep you for long; eventually you’ll leave, your friends will follow, and the advertisers and investors who basically underwrite the platform’s operating costs will flee to more popular ones. For social media sites, keeping their users happy is a critical part of their business, even though users don’t directly contribute to the bottom line.

In some ways, the Postal Service is like a social media network. Certainly there are major differences, but at its core the Postal Service operates as a platform that primarily connects household users, who mostly receive the mail, to paying senders. Those birthday cards you unfailingly receive from your aunt, your favorite catalogs, and even dreaded bills generate postage fees that help keep the Postal Service in business.

Our new white paper explores how digital platforms treat their users and what lessons they offer for the Postal Service at time when the use of mail is changing. We find that there are three pillars vital to platform success — a good platform experience, strong user engagement, and ensuring value for both platform users and payers.

For instance, to improve user engagement, the Postal Service could consider ways to make sending hard copy mail an easy and intuitive experience for digital users. To improve the value of the platform, the Postal Service could explore creating a digital feedback loop that allows recipients to let advertisers know what they think of specific ad mail, thus helping advertisers target future mailings more accurately. This would create a win-win-win for recipients, mailers, and the Postal Service.

What do you think? How can the Postal Service keep America “logging on?” Keeping you interested in your mail is the key to the health of the entire postal platform.

Source: USPS Office of Inspector General

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