Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh is a guy I can’t help but like, despite never meeting face-to-face. With Twitter, Hsieh Tweets about everything from shaving his head and eating too many jalapenos to celebrating Zappos’ 10th anniversary. This 140-character glimpse into a CEO with real personality makes me want to invite Hsieh for a pint at the local bar and battle his more than 747,000 Twitter followers for a bar stool.
Hsieh started using Twitter to “build our company culture,” encouraging employees to sign on and share their Tweets on the employee Twitter page. By giving employees a voice, Zappos gives customers honest, unfiltered communications from 431 employees.
Beyond Twitter, Zappos employees write blogs, including one that pairs shoe recommendations with outdoor vacation suggestions, and create videos for Zappos.tv and YouTube, which feature goofy, fun-loving employees and their love of Zappos.
I selected Zappos as an example of a company that “gets” social media because of the focus on fun, honest, relationship-building and personality-driven communications. Each use of social media stays true to Zappos’ core values of:
• create fun and a little weirdness;
• be adventurous, creative, and open-minded; and
• open and honest relationships with communication.
From an e-tailer to a mega-retailer. I chose Walmart as a company that is using social media poorly. Walmart’s weakness stems from the fact that it faces intense scrutiny and thousands of critics after an early foray into blogging ended in scandal. Walmart’s for-hire public relations agency posed as real customers taking a cross-country RV trip.
After pulling the plug and taking time to lick its wounds, Walmart returned with a series of blogs authored by employees. Want to read posts about helping the family or decorating centsibly chic? Sorry, there are absolutely no entries in those designated categories! Add in the product pitches, or the overly long and detail-laden posts, and I felt as if the blogging employees were reading from a Blogging 101 book and regurgitating corporate PR-speak.
Walmart does have a YouTube channel with videos about the environment and motherhood, but the videos lack creativity. After watching one, I felt as if I had seen them all. They have the same locked down camera, mother standing-in-front style.
Walmart’s social media is lackluster and boring, nothing really to make me want to stop, watch or read. On the other hand, Zappos’ social media implies a well-managed, authentic, happy company that inspires me to buy. If Walmart and other companies took a page or two from the Zappos social media manual and put the following lessons into practice, the companies would see real results and increased respect in the online world:
• Bring in personality. There have to be fun employees worth sharing with the world. Put them out there and give them the tools to communicate.
• Move away from product placement. Let people know more about your employees, your stores, your philosophy.
• Get original. Scrap the old school way of doing videos (person + camera) and think outside of the box.
• Engage your audience. Just because mothers shop your stores does not mean that they don’t deserve fun and interesting content.
• Be honest. Companies must remove the filter of public relations and focus on authentic communication.