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September 21, 2007

Dell and Social Media

Last night at the Austin Social Media Club event, we learned about Dell’s forays into “social media” from John Pope, Lionel Menchcha, and Caroline Dietz. (John, Lionel and Caroline are responsible for managing Dell’s social media initiatives.)

During this 90-minute panel discussion, they shared how Dell is using their Direct2Dell blog and their IdeaStorm project to become a better, more responsive, and more likeable company. (Great stuff.)

Below are some highlights from the very interesting panel discussion …

re: Dell’s Social Media Goals
1 | Enter into conversations with customers everyday in every major language
2 | Address any form of customer dissatisfaction head-on knowing that not everything will be solved and some of Dell’s weaknesses will be exposed
4 | Encourage "crowd sourcing" as the next step in listening to customers
5 | Use video to personalize the Dell story
[John Pope, digital media senior manager]
re: Dell’s Beginning Blogging Efforts
Contrary to perception, Dell didn’t start blogging because of Jeff Jarvis. However, Jeff’s rants did help Dell realize there were customer service issues the company needed to address.

In April of 2006, Michael Dell charged Dell to proactively find dissatisfied customers in the blogosphere and connect them with someone at Dell who could help them. By July, Dell had launched its blogging efforts.

Dell stumbled with the initial launch of their Direct2Dell blog. They listened to feedback on how to improve it, namely adding links in posts linking to other bloggers. Dell adjusted and in some cases apologized for making a mistake.
[Lionel Menchaca, digital media manager]

re: Changing the Tone of the Conversation about Dell
At the low point in 2006, Dell calculated at least 50% of the online conversation about Dell was negative. Today, Dell calculates the negative online conversation percentage number has been reduced to 23%. Dell doesn’t attribute all its blogging efforts to stemming the negative online conversation, but they are confident that blogging has helped.
[Lionel Menchaca]
re: “Wins” in the Blogosphere
90% of the time Dell enters into a conversation, it “wins.” A “win” happens when (a) you enter the conversation and just thank someone for giving their opinion and (b) when you weigh-in on a negative thread with clarification of facts and the negativity subsides.
[John Pope]
re: Dell’s Process for Posting on the Direct2Dell blog
Lionel serves as “editor-in-chief” for the Direct2Dell blog. As the editor-in-chief, Lionel balances three areas when it comes to topics the company chooses to blog about:
(1) content/ideas from Dell’s cadre of bloggers
(2) comments from Direct2Dell readers … if a topic emerges from readers, then Dell knows it needs to blog about that topic
(3) the need to add Dell’s voice to an online conversation that directly or indirectly impacts Dell.
[Lionel Menchaca]
re: Moderating Comments
Dell moderates comments on the Direct2Dell blog. On busy weeks, Dell receives up to 400 comments. Well over 90% of those comments get posted following a quick look-see. Dell uses common sense guidelines when deciding which comments to moderate. Dell’s three common sense rules are:
(1) No profanity
(2) No direct attacks on Direct2Dell readers
(3) Anything addressing legal issues are not posted,
[Lionel Menchaca]
re: IdeaStorm
The Direct2Dell blog changed how the company viewed online customer conversations. In the past, Dell wasn’t comfortable with participating or reacting to the conversations happening online about the company. However, the company now understands the importance of participating and reacting to the online conversation … so much so that … directly soliciting ideas from the online community was the next step in Dell’s social media strategy.

In Febuary 2007, Dell launched IdeaStorm — which is, simplistically speaking, an “online suggestion box” inviting people to offer ideas on how Dell can improve its products and services.

One unique aspect to IdeaStorm is Dell is now able to close the loop with feedback from customers. When customers post ideas on IdeaStorm, Dell is able to follow-up with posts/comments explaining that the company heard them and explain what Dell is doing in response.

Dell views IdeaStorm as a way its product development team can co-create products with customers. Pre-installed Linux on Dell computers was one of the first ideas generated from IdeaStorm that Dell product developers worked with customers to co-create and introduce to the marketplace.

There are about 35 other ideas Dell has put into action as a response to listening to feedback from customers on IdeaStorm.
[Caroline Dietz, online community manager for IdeaStorm]

re: Lessons Dell is Learning from IdeaStorm
While there have been many successes with IdeaStorm, Dell is still adapting to how this initiative is changing the culture at the company. Being more transparent and sharing company information isn’t a cornerstone of the Dell corporate culture. However, IdeaStorm requires a certain comfort level with being open and forthcoming that Dell employees are adjusting to. Clearly, Dell’s participation in the online social media world is having an impact on its company culture.
[Caroline Dietz]
re: Dell EmployeeStorm
As a result of the success IdeaStorm has had in generating ideas from customers, Dell has launched EmployeeStorm to generate ideas and comments from its 88,000 employees. A by-product has been employees are learning to become more comfortable sharing ideas and adding comments that they are now more willing to participate in IdeaStorm.
[Caroline Dietz]


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Having been contacted by Dell after I launched a post discussing Michael Dell's directive to his staff to become more directly involved with customers, I have made an effort to watch Dell closely. I also wrote a post when they launched both blogs that you mention above. I think they are an excellent example of how a business can enter the blogosphere using good business practices such as stated goals and objectives.

Lewis ... Dell's "EmployeeStorm" initiative is the aspect I find the most interesting here. It's just one by-product of how the once super-rigid Dell corporate culture is loosening up. I'm interested to see how much more the culture at Dell evolves as openness and transparency works its way into the Dell company culture slipstream.

It was also impressive to see John, Lionel, and Caroline be upfront. Dell hires smart people and its great to see them trusting their smart employees to share.

I must say that I've been pretty impressed with Direct2Dell. I do think that many corporate blogs tend to tied with a specific marketing goal. Dell seems to be supporting the Direct2Dell team.

Very interesting. I've blogged about Dell's poor customer service on MarketingBlurb and Brandcurve, so I'll have to follow up with this new initiative by Dell. I just hope Dell's social networking attempts aren't wrought with corporate rhetoric as I've seen in the past. Only time will tell.

Thanks for posting this. Great to hear about a brand that gets the importance of online customer dialogue.

John, thanks for this wrap-up of the meeting. I thought I took good notes, but wow! This is outstanding coverage of a very educational exchange with some key people at Dell.

I think Dell doesn’t attribute all its blogging efforts to stemming the negative online conversation, but they are confident that blogging has helped.

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