We’re pretty sure that you have heard about Zappos.com. And if you haven’t used their online shop, you probably know a little bit about their company’s culture.

Zappos.com is an online shoe and clothes shop, based in Las Vegas, USA.  The company was founded in 1999 and at present has more than 1500 employees.  Their CEO Tony says, “if we get the culture right, then everything else, including the customer service, will fall into place.” And god, he’s right. Tony’s account was the main reason why we approached Zappos – he has over 1 800 000 followers on Twitter. It was his idea to create the unique Zappos Insights web site which provides all the tools you need to develop a company culture like theirs.  They also have a simple website in which you can see what all their employees are doing on Twitter. Genius, isn’t it?

The company publishes an annual “Culture Book”, which is packed with each employee’s idea about Zappos’ culture. They claim that the entries are unedited and anyone can receive a copy of the book upon request (we’ve ordered ours!).

Zappos Social Engagement Science Graham Kahr says: “Culture is our biggest asset. Our strong company culture enables us to be individuals who work together for one common goal – delivering the best service to our customers.”

One of their ten core values is “#6 Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication”. Here’s where social media comes in. They have an outstanding active presence on Twitter, Facebook and You Tube. Their employees are encouraged to use Twitter actively, to communicate with people and to show followers a little bit of the Zappos culture.

After we heard all that, the question was: Is this real? Are they this good at communication with people? The answer is an absolute “yes”. After approaching them, we received an immediate response from the lovely and helpful Carina. The next day we already had their answers kindly written by Zappos’ Social Engagement Scientist Graham Kahr.

Here is the whole interview, enjoy!

Twittering from @Zappos / @Zappos_Service

Number of Followers: 1,818,919 / 9,493

Number of Tweets: 2,266 / 71,602

A small part of the Zappos Family

A small part of the Zappos Family

How did you come up with the idea of your micro-site? What’s its main purpose? Are people excited about using it?

One of our developers thought it would be cool to bring the whole family together in one place and allow each of us to follow each other. It’s not used as a marketing tool, just for fun! Some people use it and others don’t (there is a new version coming soon).

Have you got a team that is in charge of your Social Media? Do you have a special Twitter strategy?

We don’t really use the term “social media” because it alludes to using these channels as marketing nodes rather than communication nodes. But, we do have folks from brand and direct marketing that work together in conjunction with other stakeholders around the company. We use Twitter primarily for listening, but our @zappos_service account is all about delivering our service level to our customers.

You have a unique brand’s culture that many companies are trying to adopt now. What makes you different on Twitter?

We are just ourselves. We hardly ever promote product on Twitter. Nobody likes being solicited on Twitter, so we keep it human.

How should companies use Twitter?

The key to having Twitter work for any business is that the communications have to be authentic amongst the employees, and the organization has to trust the employees. If the organization doesn’t trust its own employees or the organization doesn’t embrace transparency, then Twitter is not going to work very well for that organization. Just be real and use it as a way to connect more deeply with people. Don’t think of it as a marketing tool you have to leverage. And you actually have to be passionate about twittering or it’s not going to work. So if you’re not passionate about it, then don’t do it.

Does Twitter help you to sell your products directly? Do you use it for that?

Maybe upstream, but we really don’t push products on Twitter. It’s more about just communicating with our fans whether the topic is heels or video games (something we don’t sell).

Is employees’ engagement on Twitter your company policy? Would you hire someone who doesn’t like being on Twitter?

We do offer Twitter classes, but those are optional and are more for employees to learn how to sign up for Twitter and use various features and third party applications. We really don’t give any specific guidelines except to tell them to use their best judgment. It’s up to employees what they want to Twitter about. As I mentioned earlier, the primary focus was to get employees to connect with each other, so the vast majority of the posts are about their personal lives. But this is not twitter-specific: If an employee does anything that’s not consistent with our core values, whether through twitter, telephone, or in person, then we need to consider whether that employee is Zappos material for the long term. We currently don’t have any standard procedures for responding to tweets from customers.

Your CEO Tony Hsieh is the company’s most active and followed Twitter user. He has the amazing 1,828,506 followers (in the moment I’m writing these questions) How did he make it? Was it the right time and the right place or something more? Is his account the main way to communicate with your customer?

Tony was an early adopter of Twitter and has spent time traveling the world to speak about culture, entrepreneurship and more. While Tony has millions of followers, there are over 500 active Twitter users in the Zappos Family and the @zappos_service account is our most active.

In your opinion – What is Twitter all about?

Communication. It’s not about marketing, it’s about engagement. It’s a place to share the real you and your ideas. As a company, we are committed to connecting with our customers on a personal level. The telephone is actually a really great way to do this, which is why we have our 1-800 number at the top of every page of our web site. We found that Twitter is another great way to do this, and if something else comes along in the future, then we would definitely explore that as well.

 

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