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Monday, November 29, 2010

Zappos Uses Social To Share Culture

CB Whittemore's 2010 Visit to Zappos
Imagine social tools being about sharing culture rather than for pushing deals. That's how Zappos uses them - be they the telephone, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, videos and more [see Zappos gets savvy with social media].

Zappos is intensely passionate and single-minded about its culture.  In fact, Zappos places a premium on employee fit with its unique customer service focused culture. "Our whole belief is that if we get the culture right, then most of the other stuff, like delivering great customer service or building a long term enduring brand, will happen naturally on its own," says CEO Tony Hsieh in 840 million reasons to celebrate. What's most intriguing is how Zappos shares its culture, using social tools. Rather than use then as selling tools, Zappos deliberately uses them to "...connect on a more personal level with both employees and customers. It gives people a glimpse into our company culture, which is ultimately what our brand is all about," explains Hsieh.

Mind you, this is the company that considers the telephone to be the best social media; "it's ... easier to build a personal and emotional connection with someone remotely than by email," says Hsieh in Happy @ Zappos.

In Delivering Happiness the Zappos Way, Hsieh advises would-be presenters to not sell a product, but rather to inspire the audience because "ultimately, it causes people to be more attached to the brand and the company. You'd much rather support a company that inspires you than one that doesn't."

As a result,as described in the March 2, 2009 issue of PRWeek in an article titled "A perfect fit", "all staffers are introduced to Twitter in their training, and more than 400 are active on the site, interacting with each other and customers."

The number is closer to 500 now and Zappos has integrated all of the Twitter streams into a single site [see below].

Hsieh explains in the article "the best way to provide customer service is to form relationships - with each other and with customers."  In At Zappos, Culture Pays, you get a feel for how Zappos "corporate culture is more than a set of values, and it is maintained by a complex web of human interactions. At Zappos the liberal use of social media facilitates the network that links employees with one another and with the company's customers..."

How many of you operate the same way?

As this Mashable interview with Hsieh titled Zappos CEO on How to Deliver Happiness with Social Media asks "Many companies view staff time spent on social media as a waste, and some are even blocking these sites. What is Zappos' approach to this? Do you think time on social media sites can increase well-being of staff or is this best left to their personal time?"

Hsieh responds, "we don't have a specific social media policy. In fact, we try to avoid policies about anything as much as possible, because usually policies are used to address the 1% of people causing a problem at the expense and inconvenience of the 99% of people that are not.

Our philosophy is to hire the right employees (employees whose personal values match our corporate core values), make sure everyone understands the long-terms vision, provide ongoing training and development opportunities, and then trust our employees to do the right thing."

It all comes back to culture and cultural fit and then using social tools to share [or "project that culture out into the world" - see 5 case studies on companies that win at Social Media and eCommerce] Zappos' uniquely warm, welcoming and other-focused culture that is known for decisions such as Zappos takes the high road again and bites $1.6million bullet...

Zappos exudes culture!
If you'd like to experience firsthand how Zappos uses social to share culture, check out these following links:
Or, you might consider Zappos' bootcamp - see Paid Content Profile: How Zappos became expert on customer service culture and a publisher.

I recommend, if you are headed to Las Vegas, that you simply schedule your very own Zappos tour to experience Zappos Culture firsthand. [Visit Zappos Insights for more information...]

Regardless, would you let me know how Zappos' example inspires you to use social to share your culture?

Previous posts in this series inspired by my 2010 Zappos tour include:

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