ZAPPOS: Their online presence doesn’t stink and neither should yours!

Posted by John H. Heinrichs

Jan 16

ZAPPOS: Their online presence doesn’t stink and neither should yours!

What Tony_hsiehdo you do when one of the most popular rappers in the world speaks ill of your company?  If you’re online shoe retailer Zappos, you post a picture of a toilet and a plunger priced to sell fictitiously on your website for $100,000.  Yes, when rapper Kanye West made a derogatory statement in an effort to purposefully cause damage to Zappo’s CEO reputation and the company’s brand, the company reacted swiftly to put comical spin on the expletive West used in his remark.  Not only did this gesture make headline news but it also sparked an increase in visits to the site and receipt of 2,730 comments in support of this clever stunt.  The company also received tweets from other retailers praising Zappos for having the courage to protect their brand.  

(Image by Delivering Happiness Book [CC-BY-SA-2.0 ( or CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons)

Clever emergency PR response, right?  That is not all that should be taken from a company who is no stranger to connecting with the public through social media.  A mere google search of the company’s name will not only produce results concerning its product but numerous case studies and articles about how the company has succeeded in utilizing social media platforms to its advantage.  It is undeniable that one of the factors that enabled the solicitation of support and attention over its plunger stunt was the strong loyal customer base that Zappos has developed on platforms like Twitter, YouTube, and even Facebook (where the company has approximately 1.2 Million “likes”).  Would a more formally issued PR response to media outlets have proven to be as effective and attention garnering?

Take It To The Customers

In essence, Zappos reaction to West’s remark was the company doing what it is known to do: take it to the customers.  The decision to indirectly address bad press in a format where customers could voice their opinions as well showed why Zappos is viewed as a pillar of effective social media strategy implementation.  Even in addressing critique the company kept its customers at the forefront offering this “product” to them for “review”.  What Zappos truly succeeded in was once again engaging with its customers, not the news reporters, or journalists reporting the story.  The company proved true that if you establish yourself well enough in social media in the eyes of followers and you may not need a crisis management representative on your company’s payroll. 


Transparency is not a new concept to Zappos.  The company was one of the first to use Twitter aggregation to pull in any mentions of the company’s name and even the CEO has a twitter page with current tweets.  This shows that the company leverages its social media tactics from its top level leaders down to the employees responsible for uploading its YouTube videos (and tweeting about the work that they do while at work).  Facebook statuses are updated quite often on the company’s page and the information posted exhibits an appropriate balance of promotion of products with personal touches that help the company engage with customers outside of a selling platform.  According to Kensho Digital Marketing Co., 42% of Zappos Facebook status updates during November 2012 to January 2013 led to site purchases. 

Be Human

Zappos has shown customers that the company is “human” and values the give and take between business and consumer.  The company celebrates its star fans with “shout outs” on Twitter and offers contests on Facebook where a fan’s picture can actually become the company’s wall photo.  This is what is so great about using social media to connect to customers, being able to connect in such a way that your organization gives the impression of a personal relationship although it is through impersonal means.  There is a lot that can be learned from Zappos which can be universally applied to any organization and that is the importance of integrating social media as a part of overall corporate strategy rather than a stand alone “social media” campaign.  Gone are the days when social media stood alone as a venture your organization could slightly engage in through automatic generic posts or mistakenly try to avoid completely.  If either of these behaviors is your organization’s approach you could soon find your online reputation going down the drain!  For it is a necessity to take a page from Zappos “social media integration book” and connect, monitor, and most importantly stay engaged. 

(All accolades and credit for this tremendous blog post are for Cierra Jones who is the author and content creator.)

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