Expanding Connections with Customers Through Social Media

There’s no shortage of folks who have been saying that social media is the next big thing. Dell jumped into the social media space more than three years ago. In those days, I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about the larger implications of what we were doing. Back then, it was all about connecting and responding to customers and just making social media work. After starting with a blog, we moved on to IdeaStorm, then into Twitter and Facebook. We built a Flickr page (which recently passed 1 million views) and a Dell YouTube channel to facilitate the sharing of picture and video content we produced for Direct2Dell.

Dell.com, Support.Dell.com and the Dell Community Forum all pre-dated our social media activity. Looking at our online success in all those places, the fundamentals were clear for us. The web was an ideal place for us to connect directly with customers. Social media brought that and something more—a way to listen, learn and engage with customers, with a clear emphasis on the engage part of the equation, It allows us to further those direct connections with customers while also sharing what we are all about, making technology work, work better and harder for you.

Today, as more and more customers are embracing social media, our thinking about Dell and community has evolved beyond simply driving customers to our own sites to connecting those conversations where they happen on the web (and in the real world too). If you look at our aggregate presence on social media networks plus our own community sites, our worldwide community has grown to more than 3.5 million people across the social web, including places like Twitter, Facebook, Direct2Dell and IdeaStorm. That’s roughly a fan base the size of the population of Chicago. And at this stage is only a small part of the overall 2 billion contacts we have with customers worldwide every year via phone, e-mail, etc.

Our @DellOutlet is now close to 1.5 million followers on Twitter, and back in June we indicated that @DellOutlet earned $3 million in revenue from Twitter. Today it's not just Dell Outlet having success connecting with customers on Twitter. In total, Dell’s global reach on Twitter has resulted in more than $6.5 million in revenue. In fact our Brazilian and Canadian accounts are growing rapidly too – and it was Canadian tweeters who asked to make sure Dell Canada came online to Twitter. Dell Canada responded because the team heard our customers. In less than a year, @DellnoBrasil has already generated nearly $800,000 in product revenues. Similarly, @DellHomeSalesCA has surpassed $150,000 and is increasing at notable pace.

Twitter numbers and growth in Dell’s presence in other social networks is one thing, but what does this mean to our customers and for Dell’s social media strategy overall moving forward? In my mind, it boils down to a few key strategies:

  • Streamline our presence in social media networks, create meaningful content for customers and continue to increase our connections with them in those places
  • Focus on building a tighter integration between Dell.com, Support.Dell.com, our Dell Community sites with our presence in social networks
  • Continue our focus on scaling support of social media initiatives into the Dell business units

Executing against all those strategies will take a lot more effort and collaboration between many departments within the company. In my mind, getting those things right will lead to us to a new level into areas I’ve spoken about previously like content syndication and aggregation. We are making strides here that I can discuss more in the future. For now, I can tell you that we’ve got some interesting enhancements coming to IdeaStorm soon, and we continue working to roll out the new version of the Telligent platform that much of Dell’s Community properties reside on called Telligent Community 5.0.

Executing these strategies also means we’ll have to take steps now to eventually help us tackle some big issues on the horizon like profile collaboration. If you need any proof that this is a complex thing, take a look at some of the discussions that resulted when both Yahoo unveiled plans for tighter integration with Facebook Connect and Google on their Friend Connect plans with Twitter.

For Dell (or any company for that matter), isolated social media efforts won’t lead to long-term success in this space. Our long-term success depends on how well we execute on the key strategy points I outlined earlier in this post. My belief in the promise that social media brings combined with Dell’s commitment to our long-term social media strategy is why I continue to do this job.

Update: Earlier this morning, Manish Mehta, who wrote the first blog post here at Direct2Dell, and who worked for years on both Dell.com and Support.Dell.com and now leads Dell's Social Media and Community team, recently published a guest blog post on Huffington Post with more insight on this topic. Hope you'll take a look at it and most importantly, continue to tell us how we can improve.

About the Author: Lionel Menchaca