Content Marketing All-Stars Q&A: Joshua Weaver and Loren Becker of Zappos

By NativeAI / July 13, 2015
Zappos logo

There may be no brand that does digital content creation and social media better than Zappos. The retailer applies its core values – including exceptional customer service, embracing risk, humor, and positivity – to every undertaking, which has led to a clear, approachable,  innovative, online presence. 

Moreover, the company is a pioneer in working to help its local community. Led by CEO Tony Hsieh, Zappos has invested heavily in reinvigorating downtown Las Vegas and makes a  concerted effort to give back in any way it can.

All of this comes together in unexpected, cutting-edge offerings like the Downtown  Throwdown – a series amateur boxing matches that Zappos hosted on its campus and live-streamed on Periscope and Snapchat.

Recently we had a chance to chat with Joshua Weaver, Social Media Manager at Zappos, and
Loren Becker, Experience and Community Team Manager, about the Throwdown events, how the company approaches social media in general, and what the future may hold for content marketing.

Check the All-Star Q&A out below:

Q: Fill the blank, the best content _____?

A:  The best content is relevant. It sounds like a super simple answer, but if you are doing social media and communications for a brand, that has to be your number one priority.

There are times where we’ll see a story or we’ll see an opportunity for us to jump out there and put out the Zappos’ name, but if it’s not relevant to the story we’re telling or trying to tell then it’s not going to be anywhere near to best content and usually has a negative impact.

Q: So every other KPI that you measure comes back to relevancy, yes?

A: That’s where everything starts; with the question: is it relevant? Then we go from there.

Q: Do you have guidelines in place that define what is relevant for Facebook versus what is relevant for Twitter? Is that a gut feeling? How do you go through the process of  breaking down content and social media by platform?

zappos screenshot

A: We do not have a guide to what should go where. It is absolutely is a mixture of knowledge, historical data, and gut feeling.

There are times – specifically for things like the Vegas Nightlife Fights, when we use social channels like Snapchat and Periscope that provide a more intimate look at the culture we have on campus; that’s not something that would really resonate the same way on Facebook.

Q: How do you create a balance between brand-building content on social media and customer-focused content?

A: On social media it’s not going to be one of the other. You are always going to have that balance and you are always going to need to focus on both.

Before anything else, social media is a form of self-promotion – even on a personal level – and it’s also a form of customer service.  So we have to find that perfect balance of responding and working with the customer while continuing to tell the Zappos story.

You can’t have one without the other. You can’t tell the story of where our culture comes from and who we are and not expect people to want to contact us and experience that culture for themselves.  

So finding that dead-center balance is something that’s always integral for any company; it’s something that we’ve become very good at because social media is so ingrained in our DNA.  

That goes back many years now. Tony [Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos], was pushing everybody in the company to jump on Twitter back when the platform was still in its infancy.

Q:  What are they key metrics that you look at that are common across different social
media platforms?

A. Everyone, of course, really wants to find that one special KPI that they can focus their social campaign on.

Impressions and engagement, that’s really where the lot of the bread and butter lies in organic social, because you can see impressions on a Pinterest pin, impressions on on a Facebook post, impressions on a snap on Snapchat. So that’s definitely the starting point.

However, everything with each social channel is different, because you can’t really compare the impressions that you get on Snapchat to those you get on Pinterest. You need to think of them as completely different entities.

A: Let’s transtion to talk about the Downtown Throwdown Fight. Can you talk a bit about the origin the event and what the goals were?

Downtown throwdown

A: Since Zappos moved to Downtown Las Vegas a few years ago we have become much more community focused. It’s a major focus; we talk a lot about our “four feet”: focusing on customer service, on clothing, on our core values, and on community.

A man named Derrick Harmon is the creator/promoter of Vegas Nightlife Fights. He’d been doing these events around Las Vegas and he came to Zappos looking for a sponsorship. We though it would be a great idea to bring them from the Strip to Downtown, and instead of just providing sponsorship in dollars and cents, we wanted to provide them an area to throw the  event that wouldn’t cost money.

We were able to set up the Zappos campus in a way that was really exiting for the event. It allowed them to throw the event at a relatively low cost, and because of that, we were able to work with them to give back to the community through Three Square, which is a great charity
in here in Vegas.

It all came together at that point. We realized we could have a Downtown Throwdown Fight, we could market “punching out hunger” – for every ticket sold Zappos would donate a dollar as well as Vegas Nightlife Fights – and we could also have a canned food drive.

zappos social media campaign

It became a way to engage the community, to have people come out, have a fun night, but also to give back. It was a lot of wins in a lot of different ways for Zappos. 

In terms of social media, it was such a no-brainer for us live-stream the event on Periscope and Snapchat. The fights were incredibly well put together, and the event not only showcased the culture and the community portion of Zappos, but it was also fun and engaging content.

zappos twitter

Q: What was the experience like live streaming the events? Were there any technical challenges? Did it create social interactions that were different from other types of content?

A: Knock-on-wood, we did not have any technical issues. We are on a campus with incredibly powerful wifi, so that helped.

As for the actual content itself, Zappos has a crazy variety. So our audience ranges from the individual who would like boxing to the individual who wants to tune-in and watch a livestream Fashion Week. Having that entire range of consumers lets us play around with these sorts of events.

The week before we did the Zappos Downtown Throwdown, we actually gave our Snapchat account to a pro skateboarder who was at an event on Fremont. He took it over, he promoted it himself, and basically said: “Hey, follow Zappos see what I’m up to for the day.”

Things like that, they’re incredible. They let us reach an audience that we don’t get to talk to on a daily basis; it really allows us to create a social audience that’s very well rounded.

Q: What’s your favorite piece of content created by Zappos?

A: If you haven’t heard of it, just Google “Zappos” and “Kanye West.”

Basically, Kanye West called in on one of his famous tirades and he said something along the lines of Zappos sells s**t products. We couldn’t not jump on it. We created an entire landing page to look like we sold a $100,000 plunger and responded back.

zappos plunger 100000 gimmick

It was creative, it was incredibly off-the-cuff; it wasn’t too sarcastic, it just hit on so many levels that even people within the company were like: “That was awesome!”

We ended up getting an incredible amount of coverage on that.

Q: What about outside of Zappos? You guys live and work this stuff, what other brands have gotten your attention that you admire for having good content?  And you can’t say Red Bull.

A: Ha, we actually love Red Bull’s content.

One answer is Target, simply because for every single piece of creative they put out there, if you removed the logo, you would still immediately know it’s Target. That’s taken a lot of time and they’ve really stuck with it. From their ads on TV to social, you can always tell. That’s something that Zappos is always striving for – can your audience tell it’s your content without your logo attached?

target content success

Second – just because they started off ridiculous and stuck with it: Dollar Shave Club. They had that one video that just hooked you within 30 seconds, and every piece of content that they’ve put out since then has been just as amazing. 

Also, the recent Zipcar ads were pretty funny, and they really got people paying attention.

Q: Finally, what do you see as the future of content marketing and social media? How is Zappos going to continue and what do you think will be happening in general?

A: We have an internal mantra: test, fail, test, fail, test, fail, win. We don’t care if we fail 999 times as long as that last time we get it perfect. So, having that ability, not being burdened by people looking over your shoulder, it really gives us the freedom to experiment with our content marketing and social media.

When we were first looking at Periscope and Meerkat and all of that stuff, it didn’t immediately make sense that Zappos as a brand should establish some sort of live streaming.  But when we really sat down and thought about where it would live in ecosystem it ended up being a perfect fit – because not only do we have the best service on the planet, but the culture that we’ve built here is something that the more we show people, the more they want to know.

So that was Joshua from Zappos sharing his insights on how the much loved brand creates highly relatable and effective campaigns to delight and engage its audience. If you are a content publisher who loves to mix data and creativity to optimize performance, you should try Native.AI which gives you Machine Learning powered audience insights backed by all your favorite analytics metrics.

Written by NativeAI / July 13, 2015