Friday, September 25, 2009

Social Media: an effective business tool

This post was originally published in the P29 Consulting e-Journal August 2009

As an introduction to Social Media, I should follow conventional wisdom and discuss the benefits of the "Social" aspect; I think, however, it is more beneficial for traditional business to focus on "Media". As a time and cost saver, social media is a practice well worth exploring.

On Wednesday, July 22th I read the following post on my Tweetdeck (

Big Day! Email I sent to Zappos employees today about the Amazon acquisition

In less than 140 characters and a link to a blog post, Tony Hsieh (known as @Zappos in the Twitterverse) brilliantly accomplished two things: controlling the story and boosting public opinion.

Most importantly, he took control of the 850 million dollar news story about his company. Public information wasn’t left to be speculated on and then dispersed by mainstream media and talking heads. The public was able to read for itself, in Hsieh’s own words and tone, about the stock transfer. He dispels any myths about large cash transfers and corporate takeovers.

Secondly, we were all able to see the respect with which Hsieh treats his employees. In the Email, made public in the blog posting, he addresses employees’ top three concerns: job security, corporate culture and leadership as a priority. By addressing these issues the public sees that Zappos leadership appreciates employees as team members and values their contributions to the company’s success.

In the current economic climate, corporations are falling one after another and CEOs are seen as greedy and out of touch. This simple use of social media to disperse an internal memo to the public has probably done more for the Zappos’ reputation, than many thousands of dollars spent to have the story spun by traditional public relations and news outlets.

The reason that this tweet was not seen as a publicity stunt to thwart bad press is that Zappos had already built a relationship with its customers and the public with social media. Hsieh has built a Twitter following of over a million people with less than 2000 updates.

Zappos’ blog has posts about products and culture. It also has a CEO/ COO section that along with the above mentioned letter features a picture of Hsieh in a bunny suit handing out candy to children and a PowerPoint® about e-commerce lessons. We have already learned to trust him as a person and a business leader. So when he tells us that he is excited about a major change within his business, we believe him and are excited-not skeptical.

Now is the time to determine how you and your company are viewed by the public, your customers, employees and stockholders. Are you in a place socially, that should a major event happen within your company, that you can handle it as swiftly and successfully as Tony Hsieh did?

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