October 06, 2009

This Week In Business: Zappos Twitter Strategy

Well, you can't throw a Pottery Barn catalog without hitting somebody who promises business success on Twitter.

I find the whole Twitter thing vexing. My own presence (follow me here) finally found a groove ... more than 1,000 followers discussing various questions I ask on a daily basis.

But enough about me. You frequently ask me how you might use Twitter to increase sales.

So why don't we look to the leader, Zappos, to see how their folks use Twitter.

As you may already know, Zappos gives considerable flexibility to employees using social media, and allows you to see what all employees are currently talking about. So let's take a brief look at a few employee comments.

Customer Service --- Click Here For More: @Zappos_Service

  • @jefframone Thank you for shopping with us! I hope you enjoy your shoes =)
  • @hevipetter Did you know that we also carry handbags to go with your cute boots? http://www.zappos.com/bags
  • @trappedinabay Please let us know if you need any assistance! We are here for you 24/7 by calling 1-800-927-7671.
  • @kooskoos Did you know that we also sell clothing to go along with your shoes? http://www.zappos.com/clothing
  • @Delirium7 I'm sorry the heels didn't work out for you. Please give us a call at 1-800-927-7671 if you need further assistance.
  • @kastner We apologize for any inconvenience. That site was just a test and we decided not to go forward with it at this time.
  • @drudy We love you too! Thanks for shopping with us!
  • @_cyndi I love these shoes! I have the same ones in the White/Carbon/Orchid. Enjoy!
  • @denimmafia Actually here is the real link to our sale section :-) http://www.zappos.com/sale
  • @marysam I'm sorry that we are currently out of stock in your size. Please DM (direct message) me your email address and I will be happy to help!
  • @tenaciouscb We apologize for any inconvenience. Please DM me if you are still experiencing any problems with your account or the site.
  • This is Josh signing off and wishing you all a good night! We'll be back here to WoW tomorrow morning!
  • Goodmorning Everyone! Tasha here, ready to WoW you this am!

Learn anything from the thirteen tweets outlined here?

Honestly, read the comments. There is nothing magical here. This isn't about Twitter. This isn't about Social Media. This is 100% about human beings offering customer service, about human beings being humble, about human beings selling merchandise. Remember selling? That's our job, as marketers. We are supposed to sell stuff.

And yet, it is the human element of this, it's the service element that may be judged by some to be magical --- not the social media marketing channel. How many of the businesses we work for would be willing to publicly apologize for being out of stock on an item? How many of the businesses we work for would be willing to publicly apologize for testing a new site out and disappointing a customer in the process?

The human element will cause some problems, too. Read a few of the tweets from Zappos employees, tweets that take on a different tone:

  • @bassred says "Hey T-Mobile. Now on day five without data service. your live chat is unavailable. thinking customer service is not very important to you."
  • @seanyboysp says "At tropical smoothie cafe with the wifey and baby boy.. maverick just loves smoothies haha"
  • @graves says "Note to self... don't try to buy Rolo's again from the vending machine"

Oh, you'll read about politics and boyfriends and kids soccer photos and Brett Favre and wars while going through employee tweets. Maybe you are more than happy to allow your employees to share their lives with your customers. Maybe this is shocking to you, and represents the absolute last thing you'd ever do, maybe you think this represents a branding catastrophe.

Remember what we talked about on Monday? When I run Multichannel Forensics and OMS analyses for clients, I continually see that interaction with humans leads to customers with increased long-term value.

Clearly, we focus on channels, like Twitter. But this has nothing to do with Twitter or Social Media or marketing channels. It has everything to do with human beings pleasing customers. What can we learn from their style of human interaction that we might be able to leverage?


  1. Great Post. After all, Twitter is a means to an end. A tool is a lever to success, not the success itself. Oh, by the way: We have companies that actually benefit from these Twitter-generated relationships through merchandise improvement and even Twit-polls that help you judge about the right stocking for various colors of featured articles.

  2. Fun post! I guess the question we need to ask is why customers have not been treated with empathy through e-mail and phone?

    Or if they have, why then treating them with empathy through Twitter is remarkable at all?

    If there is something about Twitter that magically causes management and service personnel to embrace the customer-centric model, can we port this magic over to other modes of communication?

    Or does that fact Twitter is public "force" people who otherwise wouldn't care jack for the customer to behave themselves, and the same people will continue to be rude and unhelpful in other com channels?

    In other words, is this customer care approach truly Strategic? Or is it simply driven by techno-culture?

    If I have to use the Twitter channel to get "good service", that's very screwed up! Imagine what that looks like internally in terms of tracking service success and productivity...

  3. Jim certainly makes some good points. In Zappos case, I believe it's truly strategic. They've described customer service as a marketing costs, which I think is very interesting. How differently would we all think about customer service if we funded it as marketing? And doesn't "public" customer service like this make even more sense as a marketing cost?

  4. Kevin E, I agree with the comment on Zappos, but 1 company in the entire usiverse is hardly a trend or success measure. When will ComCast start treating people who call the company like they treat people who Tweet for service? What does it take to shift the mentality?

    Is Twitter successful as a service channel primarily because the people hired to staff it are *different* in some way than agents answering the phone or e-mail? Are they paid more? Different education?

    Is service success really about the channel, or is it the people manning it and / or policies governing their behavior that drives success? Seems to me the latter is more likely, and same people could be just as successful with e-mail. In other words, Twitter is not causation here; it's correlation.

    And by all means, agree that if you embrace a customer-centric model, Service is very tightly bound to Marketing - as it has been for many years in the offline remote retailing model.

  5. Anonymous6:17 PM

    I think twitter is a great way to communicate and feel like it's more of a personal way to reach out to customers. Zappos is known as a service company and it's just another way to make their customers feel more important. Way to go Zappos!

  6. Maybe the best phrase here is from Mr. Ertell ... "public customer service".

    The esteemed Mr. Novo does make an interesting point ... one-on-one customer service tends to not be great, across the board.

    So is there an element to "public customer service" that causes @joe to say "If you need help, please DM me" because many people might read the comment, but on the phone, might say something else ... well, not a Zappos employee, but one from another company.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Winners? Units or Sales?

Pretend you have a $100 item that sells one unit. You also have a $5 item that sells 10 units. The $100 item generated $100, but just one cu...