Do We All Need Twitter Editors? [update]

This article first appeared on my blog 6 years ago, but I think it is still relevant with updates and insights for today’s environment.

In 2010 many companies were still not not open to the idea of social media websites like Facebook and Twitter because they couldn’t censor customer comments. But another important consideration is employee social talk with both the positive and negatives. Look at football players for example. Over the years there have been numerous examples of players hurting their team, university, the sport or their own personal brands through rash Twitter comments.

In the NFL the Philadelphia Eagles had a Tweetgate, where they had to apologize for Todd Herremans’ anti-homosexual tweet. And Raven’s Ray Rice tweeted about getting out of a ticket because he bribed the officer with an autograph for his son. In college football an Oklahoma player was suspended following inappropriate Twitter comments he made following a shooting incident at the University of Texas. A Utah player sparked a controversy with a comment he made about Boise State before the upcoming Maaco Bowl in Las Vegas. These NFL and college teams may have a Twitter communication plan, but these are players acting and reacting on their own. What is needed beyond marketing or PR involvement in social media is employee social media policies and training.

An example of a company with a Twitter plan that encourages employees to Tweet is In fact, there are just under 500 Zappos employees tweeting for the company. Sound like a management nightmare? They don’t seem to be tweeting off the cuff as much as football players. For example, two years ago the company had massive layoffs. Hundreds of employees reacted strongly on the company’s Twitter feed, but instead of a PR nightmare, it was something the company embraced. Instead of censoring laid off employees, Zappos remained as transparent as usual. In the end, employees appreciated it, management benefited and customers saw as a company from which they want to buy.

What’s the secret? Zappos invests heavily in employee training. They don’t just set them up with Twitter accounts and let them go. Zappos management equips employees with plenty of tools and guidelines to effectively tweet and represent the company online. The company also puts a lot of energy into hiring smart people.

Do you trust your company or organization’s employees with social media or could they benefit from some social media training?

Walk A Mile In Zappos’ New Media Shoes

You can learn a lot from With over $1 billion in sales, it is one of the Web’s fastest growing shopping sites and has built the majority of its brand equity online. Seventy five percent of their sales come from repeat customers, so they have very high levels of customer loyalty.

How do they do it? Over 80 percent of their customers hear about through either word of mouth or online advertising. Print advertising accounts for only 15 percent of their media spend.

It starts with service through their Website. “Powered by Service” means: free shipping both ways, a 365-day return policy, fast fulfillment, and fast delivery. Zappos promotes its toll-free number visibly on the home page and you can talk to someone 24/7 via phone or live chat. They also use their website for customer testimonials.

Zappos also has the Associates Program, which allows online publishers to add a simple text link to their Website advertising’s shoes. They in turn earn referral fees if the link results in a sale. The current referral fee is 12 percent, and the average associate makes about $12 per order. They can choose one of’s banners and link straight to its homepage, recommend specific shoes and add a search box to their Websites.

Zappos also uses search engine marketing (SEM). They buy both generic keywords, such as “shoes” and brand terms, such as ‘”Clarks” on Google and other search engines. Then they uses Web analytics tools to track the sales from each keyword to look at which ones are the most effective.

For retention programs, Zappos sends out e-mails to customers with information about new styles and new brands. Customers also can sign up for specific, targeted mailing lists, depending on their interests. A customer looking for a specific item that is out of stock can sign up to receive an e-mail once it is available. They also have an e-mail newsletter called Shoe Digest, which lets customers talk about shoes with other customers. The opt-in e-newsletter discusses different topics every time, depending on what readers are interested in. also has created a corporate blog that gives an insider view to the company’s culture. This helps with search engine optimization and provides another feedback loop from customers and most recently the company has been using Twitter to build brand equity. The company has 408 employees Tweeting at anytime with 5,681 “followers” signed up to read their Twitter updates.

The really amazing thing is that Zappos does not use coupons, promotions or specials. They don’t want customers to buy from them solely on the basis of price.