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On May 4th, The Footwear News section of WWD.com conducted multiple, in-depth interviews with Zappos.com CEO, Tony Hsieh and CFO, Alfred Lin. After visiting Zappos in October last fall, I fell in love with them. Their brand, their customer philosophy and the humility that they conduct their business is amazing. Zappos receives tons of press and coverage on their business (a $1.2 billion dollar company after just 9 years).

The interviews with Zappos on Apparel, Zappos Facts and Marketing support the 10 steps to building a social brand I believe that a brand or retailer need to accomplish in order to become a social success.

1.A brand or retailer should take a holistic approach to it’s marketing strategy.

2.Consistency is key. For every product a brand or retailer launches, the product must match the company’s main product model. Example: Coach & Brighton Handbags, both brands have added shoes, jewelry and accessory lines; all these products match and coordinate with their original product – hand bags.

3. Word-Of-Mouth Marketing more powerful than paid advertising or product placement. Word of Mouth marketing has replaced the effectiveness of paid advertising. A customer believes their friend or relative, they trust them as a reliable source of information.

4. Product reviews are a new form of PR. Product reviews are essential sales tools that add credibility to a product and aid in customer purchase decisions. Product reviews also help buyers change their selection before the purchase; if 85% of those reviews say that something runs a size too big, the customer can buy one size smaller, there by decreasing their likelihood of returning the product.

5. A brand or retailer can do more with less. Discover what social communities (Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, Polyvore, Closet Couture, Lookbook.Nu) are most worthwhile to your brand and put your time and energy into those. It’s better to actively engage in 3-5 communities than have a so-so presence on 15-25.

6. Social networking on sites like Facebook.com, YouTube, Twitter are essential for spreading word of mouth, building brand awareness online and engaging with customers on the internet.

7. Blogs are essential. They are cost effective (free) outlet for building website content, supporting SEO/SEM campaigns and delivering news. Blogs also give transparency to brand or retailer, it shows there’s someone behind the site. A great example is 1928 Jewelry’s blog, http://www.jewelrygalblog.com or Hayden-Harnett’s blog at http://www.hayden-harnet.com

8. Video and Podcasts are cost effective marketing outlets. Videos serve many of the same purposes as blogs. Not all customers will read blogs, but they watch videos and stream audio. Having content available in all mediums is going to be essential for retail websites in the future. Current 25% of Google searches are comprised of VIDEO; videos are also essential for SEO/SEM initiatives. In the future, all brands are going to need to incorporate video into their websites. Those videos will need to be an extension of the brand, not just a part of the website; they will have to be incorporated in.

9. Affiliate marketing is an easy, affordable to drive traffic and build brand awareness for retailers. The return is similar to that of pay per click advertising, a great traffic booster and revenue booster.

10. As an online site grows, the marketing strategy must mature. As the retailer grows, affiliate programs may become obsolete. Direct mail and search engine marketing allow a brand to control its message more effectively and may prove to be more cost effective. A brand or retailer will eventually have to invest in large scale advertising, much like Hulu.com and Zappos.com are doing now.

Learn more branding strategies at the FashionablyMarketing.Me website.

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