5 Years of Making Social Superheroes

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Dell Social Media and Community University (SMaC U) training program reaches 5 year anniversary

The power to do more. That’s our motto here at Dell, and we take it very seriously. So seriously in fact, that in 2010 we asked ourselves the question: “What if we could give our employees the superpower to do more?”

Like mad scientists, we donned our lab coats and mussed our hair, looking for just the right formula to give our workforce the boost they needed. It wasn’t easy. We wanted to try radioactive insect bites, but HR told us that was a violation of our safe workplace policies. Then, we thought about toxic waste spills, and our Sustainability team politely but firmly shot us down again.

Finally, a brainstorm hit. Every person already has access to superpowers – we just had to help them unlock those hidden strengths. We could show them how to amplify their voices, how to communicate instantly with millions of customers, and how to build relationships faster than a speeding broadband connection. We could teach them to use social media.

So, the Social Media and Community University (SMaC U) program was born. Now, our business is filled with superheroes. Their powers are strong.

Our sales superheroes have buffed up with a 69 percent year-over-year increase via social media. Our customer service heroes are battling the forces of customer dissatisfaction with a 98 percent first-time resolution rate on over 4,000 cases a week in social media. Our talent acquisition heroes are shining the Dell-signal into the sky, with 36 percent (up from 19 percent) of all external hires coming from employee referrals since adopting social media best practices.

 Dell employees choose what level of social media certification they need

SMaC U, like all the social behemoths today, launched with humble beginnings. We began with an official certification program in 2010. In the last 5 years, Twitter grew from 26 to over 300 million users, LinkedIn went from 60 to over 380 million, and the true juggernaut Facebook blotted out the sun by jumping from 400 million to over 1 billion users.

During that same time, we’ve grown the ranks of our social media do-gooders to over 15,000 SMaC certified team members. We’ve delivered over 1,300 instructor-led sessions, and scaled to meet the needs of our global business by developing on-demand certification options. Think of a never-ending 80s action film training montage, where everyone moves in slow motion and inspirational power chords ring out. That’s SMaC U certification.

Ryan Garcia is a Legal Director at Dell. As a stalwart defender of the company against legal risk, he credits SMaC U with helping him to protect the hallowed halls of his headquarters:

“SMaC U is my ultimate secret weapon. When our training program launched and I was able to incorporate legal lessons into this emerging field we were able to train thousands of employees on legal issues before they ever arose.  As a result we’ve had very few risky incidents compared to companies our size.

Without SMaC U I would not be able to work as efficiently or get to take credit for how much incredible work Dell has done in social media without taking on unnecessary legal risk.  Not only am I thankful every day for this program but I’m also glad nobody else knows my secret.  This isn’t going to be published, is it?”

More than 15,000 Dell employees worldwide have been social media certified through SMaC University training

Now, we can’t let our superheroes get rusty, so we’re always looking for ways to keep their skills sharp. We’ve built over 40 unique classes since our program began. Our SMaC U Power Hour sessions, lead by Sean Carey,  cover in-depth topics such as the newest social media platforms like Periscope and Meerkat, or soft skills like dealing with trolls and the psychology of social media.

We also energize the certified base with upleveled events like our SMaC U UnConference and build a fun internal social culture by organizing movie outings with a social media theme and lesson. Jill Bell, a SMaC U operations manager, sends holiday poems and Valentines love notes. Together, these actions keep our heroes networking, learning and growing together as a global team.

Amy Bivin is the fearless leader of a team of heroes at Dell. As the captain of Dell’s Social Outreach Services team, she relies on SMaC U to get and keep her squad field-ready:

“SMaC U has been the catalyst needed to quickly grow our social media customer support team. They have helped us to build a solid foundation and guided us to be one of the most successful social media customer service programs in the industry. But they don’t stop there.

Their continuing education programs help to keep us all on top of the latest in social media & community. They are thoughtful, empowering and so engaging in these sessions.  I simply do not know what we would do without them.”

SMaC certified employees share their knowledge on social media and drive Dell's reputation online 

Dell’s subject matter experts are a special breed of superhero. They’re always out there in the city, shining a light on lack of knowledge and helping citizens to live more successfully. Whether they’re talking about the cloud, the Internet of Things, software, security, or beyond, their expertise deserves to make it to the masses.

SMaC U’s SocialSME program, managed by Gretchen Garretsen, gives our experts next-level training, support, and analytics to keep them focused on the needs of our customers and sharing their technical and industry know-how. We’ve turbocharged 253 Social SMEs since the offering was launched, and these elite heroes have been growing their social footprint, reach and influence by leaps and bounds.

The star of the SMaC U SME Program is Hollis Tibbets, and his social powers are so strong that only Michael Dell has a larger Twitter following than he does here. He uses what he learned in the program to share his wealth of software information with the world, which has the welcome side effect of effectively evangelizing Dell’s own software offerings:

“Since graduating from SMaC U some 3 years ago, I’ve more than doubled my following on social media. 

I’ve been able to send over 100 IT-focused people a month (on average) to sales lead-generating Web pages for Dell Software – and have sent countless thousands to non-lead generating pages across all of Dell, by leveraging SMaC U best practices.”

 Dell executives also receive SMaC University social media training

Finally, there are our executives. Always battling to help our customers build future ready enterprises, we stand at the ready with training and consulting to help them and their organizations to fight the good fight.

On the individual level, we launched a white-glove 1×1 learning program called #SocialExec to help them establish their personal brands and thought leadership through social channels. We now have 63 socially savvy executives, connecting with customers and leading both internally and externally.

We also act as their trusted advisors, providing them with social intel and gadgets to make social media a part of what their organizations do every day. Listen to what value our VP of North America Marketing, Bryan Jones, has found in activating his own and his teams’ social superpowers:

“SMaC U provides the backbone to create the freedom and empowerment of my entire org’s social media strategy.  We couldn’t push the envelope of our marketing activity and brand building without first having established a bedrock for what we expect and desire from our team members – that comes from the structure and support of SMaC curriculum and staff.  But it’s really the people that make up SMaC U that make a difference – they are an invaluable part of our extended team.”

We’ve worked tirelessly in the SMaC U labs to find new ways to embed social media into the DNA of Dell. We’re proud of what our superheroes have accomplished over the last 5 years, and we’re looking forward to enabling even more in the future. We may not be the support team that our heroes deserve, but we’re honored and humbled to be the support team that they need.

Images by Jenny Newman, SMaC U Content Creator

About the Author: Amy Heiss

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