Brian Nicoletti, co-creator of SelfGrowthMarketing.com, becomes our first guest blogger today! Brian examines how Zappos, the “go-to” site for shoes that satisfies every woman’s inner Carrie Bradshaw, leveraged Twitter to introduce customers to the unique, un-corporate culture of the Zappos brand. Brian’s insights on how various companies use social media in creative and successful ways will appear on Thursdays here at VoxPopNJ.
When I first got started in social media training, the biggest question by far was, “What is the point of Twitter?” At first appearance, it is difficult to explain how 140 characters can convey a unique message especially among millions of users.
VoxPop’s last post highlighted @EatontownBB as a store manager engaging a local customer base. While this is an excellent example of using social media to personalize a large brand, I’d like to focus on a company that fully embraced social media to make it a part of their corporate identity and culture.
Tony Hsieh (Shay) is the poster child for being a good executive using Social Media. I want to start by sharing his background with you. Tony Built a business called Link Exchange that Microsoft purchased in 1998 for $245 Million. Tony was 24 at the time, a Harvard graduate. Smart young guy.
Tony decided to spend the rest of his time investing in other startups with his money.
Nick Swinmurn came to him with an idea that looked ridiculous – a website that sell shoes on the Internet. Then Tony looked at the market size and saw it had sales of $40 Billion. He invested. When Zappos started in 1999, it had almost no sales. In 2008, Hsieh said the privately-held company was on track do more than $1 billion in gross merchandise sales. The primary driver of that growth has been repeat customers and word of mouth. They have about 1600 employees and about 9 million customers.
The philosophy of Zappos is to invest in the customer experience, and let our customers do our marketing for us through word of mouth. Although Zappos has a customer care team, anyone within Zappos is empowered and encouraged to help customers.
So how did they do this? In 2007, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh began using Twitter as a way to communicate with 20 to 30 close friends. He thought it was good fit with the company’s core values and soon encouraged employees to use it as well. Twitter was a way not only to build bonds internally, he thought, but also to give people on the outside a window into Zappos’ unique culture. Employees soon began interacting with customers, answering product questions, and helping with customer service.
One thing the company doesn’t do is offer coupons or special offers through Twitter—just real conversation. Today, nearly one third of the 1,600 employees are on Twitter, helping and engaging with customers.
Last summer, Amazon purchased Zappos for close to 1 Billion dollars.
The key takeaways from this case study are:
- Be transparent and authentic – Tony may be a CEO, but he’s about as non-traditional as they come. His tweets cover everything from his weekend plans, favorite movies, to pictures from around the office and interaction with customers. No phony corporate-speak from him
- Make customer service a key point of your business – People buy from those whom they know, like, and trust. By making the customer experience memorable and personal, your business or brand will stand out in their mind, which leads to repeat business, and positive word of mouth advertising.
- Listen to the conversations about your brand and use them to your advantage – All content posted to Twitter is public information that is instantly indexed in real-time. With this in mind, Zappos monitors all of the activity of Twitter users to see what is being said about their brand, for better or for worse. This goes back to the customer service aspect of the company, and their employees can interact with the real, honest feedback from their customers.
Case studies like the Zappos example are useful because they show real companies and systems for developing relationships and business through Social Media. These case studies all contain strategies that YOU can emulate in your business to achieve great results.
About the Author:
Brian Nicoletti is the co-creator of SelfGrowthMarketing.com – an Internet Marketing boot camp for businesses in the Self Improvement industry. His training programs cover social media marketing, email list building, search engine optimization, and e-book creation and marketing. If you are interested in a personalized social media game plan for your business, drop him a line.