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How Zappos makes social media a part of its company culture

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This post was written by SmartBrief technology editor Susan Rush.

When it comes to social media, just gets it. Social media is not just a business strategy, it should be part of the culture, said Zappos’ Thomas Knoll during the “Social Media in Action: Philosophies, Strategies and Tactics That Consistently Win” panel discussion at the International Consumer Electronics Show on Friday.

Knoll said too much emphasis is often put on the “media” part of social media, adding that he is “a much bigger fan of the social part.” The goal of social media is to connect and build relationships with customers.

Fellow panelist Warren Whitlock of Xeno Press agreed. “If your customer is talking, listen to them — ‘listen and love,’” he said, adding he didn’t want to get “too kumbaya,” but that is what needs to be done. “Metrics to measure are good, but the most important part is engaging customers. You can’t make something viral, you have to make something good.”

Companies can get overwhelmed trying to decide which social media platform is right for them, but according to the panelists, the best strategy is to go where your customers are.  Christopher Rauschnot, partner at CodyCom, said that the connection with the people are more important than which technology you use. He also encouraged companies to do internal testing of new technologies to make sure they are right for the business.

Knoll also said that for Zappos, the company views culture and brand as two sides of the same coin. “Social media is an opportunity to build relationships with customers,” he said. “The brand naturally is helped by the culture — we leave our culture out in the open.”

Selling this idea to executives can be difficult, so being able to show results is important. Rauschnot emphasized the need to deliver results to executives — showing examples of someone continuing to connect with you over a period of months, for instance. Panel moderator Rohit Bhargava, a founding member of Ogilvy 360 Digital Influence, also said companies can tweak an old-school strategy and transition it with a social aspect. “Start with what you already have,” he said, noting that it is important for companies to look for workers within the organization who are already using social tools and leverage that use.

Stumbles in strategy can occur when it comes to deciding which employee in the company is responsible for social media. The panelist called on companies to avoid picking a person based on their title or age. Whitlock encouraged attendees to have their companies follow the lead of Zappos and have everyone doing social media. “Asking who should be doing social media is like asking who should have a phone on their desk. Assume everyone is on social media,” he said.

Maybe some of the best advice came from Knoll, who said, “Our social media policy is be yourself and don’t be stupid.”

How are you making social media a part of your company’s culture?

Image credit: ausinasia, via iStockPhoto