More than 30 Premier Business Leadership Series attendees gathered for a roundtable discussion of social media in retail.
"Is Your Company Antisocial? How to Effectively Engage Consumers Through Social Media and Mobility," was hosted by Michelle Thomas, Senior Brand Marketing Manager at Zappos. She was joined by Lori Schafer and Bernie Brennan, co-authors of Branded! How Retailers Engage Consumers with Social Media and Mobility, as well as Jaimee Newberry, Product Manager of Mobility at Zappos.
Bernie began the discussion by describing the eight key retailers highlighted in their book. Each retailer was chosen because they excelled in a certain area of social media or mobility. "We picked companies who were already doing a great job, in hopes of helping others get to that point," he said. The retailers mentioned in Branded! include Starbucks, Wet Seal, Macy's, 1-800-Flowers, Zappos, JC Penny, Pizza Hut, and Best Buy.
The social media culture at Zappos was the brainchild of CEO Tony Hsieh. He initially suggested Twitter as a way for employees to communicate with each other. Today, 499 Zappos employees are on Twitter. That’s nearly one-third of their employee base.
When asked if she was concerned with some many employees on Twitter, Michelle said, "No, we aren't. Tony believes that if you are real, you have nothing to fear." she went on to say that all employees are empowered to engage with each other, as well as customers. It is just part of the Zappos culture.
Engagement was a key theme of the roundtable discussion. Zappos creates an engaging environment. Starbucks engages its customers to learn about what works and doesn't work in its stores. Wet Seal found a way to engage the teen market. "Engagement is key," said Jaime. "And don't talk about service. Deliver service."
Lori noted that social media has leveled the playing field. "Small companies can use social media and grown quickly. Large companies can continue their growth," she said. "Every company can grow and benefit from social media."
"This isn't something that will go away," concluded Bernie. "Companies don't have a choice. Social media is happening all around them. I tell CEOs that if they have a great brand, leverage it. Social media is the key."