Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh points out that the telephone is an important branding tool. Zappos values PEC – personal emotional connection.
Web server host Host Gator also makes good use of PEC, whether they are aware of it or not. Their U.S. based reps are willing to spend time with customers to get their issues solved and there is never a feeling that they need to rush you off the phone. Their reps are plentiful with short wait times for service. They have more than one call center but the warm, polite Texas welcome seems to permeate the system.
The title of a Zappos article on Shelly Palmer.com being distributed on Twitter at the moment is a sensationalist traffic driver but I think the point is that social media at Zappos must fit within a larger marketing strategy and high touch customer service. Yes Twitter could be used in the clothing industry for delivering coupons and announcing sales but it can also be used to support customer service, foster relationships with customers and build website traffic. That Zappos still uses traditional marketing is appropriate. Social media should always be a strategic component of a marketing plan not a replacement for it.
Tony Hsieh’s words on the video interview linked below are also a good reminder that it is very important to engage customers in conversation. Marketing should not be a one way blast. For Zappos this can be accomplished with their call center. But you have to consider where you can accomplish this in your business. Social Media used well is about conversation not one way blasts. That Zappos wants Facebook fans that are really fans and thus engaged with the Page is a strategically sound decision that is good for Facebook edgerank. Encouraging employees to participate on Twitter as the voice of the company was a bold move for Zappos and they were a pioneer in this. Recognizing that such a move requires a strategy behind it is smart thinking.
In the video at CEO Show that the article writer Ed Keller at Keller Fay used as his inspiration for this article, Tony Hseih points out the importance of change. They are not sitting still so it makes sense that their attitude to how to use social media will change over time. There is no question that your entire marketing plan should not depend on social media. A well thought out brand positioning and marketing strategy is essential. Social media is a component not a magic wand.