So far in this series of podcasts we have had truly powerful participants from businesses all over the world and we look forward to many more as we continue to explore what works and does not work in measuring and managing the Return On Investment (ROI) of social media for business; what we refer to as social marketing.
One of the big names that always comes to mind for social marketing success is Dell Computers. They adopted social media early on for a number of reasons, primary of which is the belief that listening to a customers wants and needs is the best way to market to them. It has not always been perfect – the ‘Dell Hell’ posts by Jeff Jarvis on the BuzzMachine.com was a wake up call back in the 2005 and it seemed to get Dell to invest more heavily in tools like Twitter.
The headquarters for Dell is in Round Rock, Texas, just outside of Austin. Austin is the host city for an annual event that showcases the best in social media, South by Southwest (SXSW), which is an art & technology event that many social media participants and technology providers launch new products and capabilities – Twitter was debuted there in 2006. So being near ground zero in social media may have had an impact as well.
Dell has been regularly referred to in case studies too, many of which point at the $19M in revenue they attribute to the social media effort and others point at the call deflection that saves them millions in customer support costs – with all that history, we could not wait to get a chance to talk with Dell about their social media programs.
Our co-author Jerry Dimos of LiTMUS Group in Singapore helped set up the call and it was a great pleasure to talk with and interview Michael Buck who is the Director and General Manager for the Global Small and Medium Online Business at Dell, responsible for the overall online business and strategy for Dell SMB worldwide from his offices in Stuttgart Germany.
In this episode we meet Michael and he outlines what Dell has been doing around online communities and social media since the early 90’s. Back then Dell knew the value of connecting directly with customers and they started with forums and blogs and since then Dell has been pretty near the front of the line in implementing and using online social technology.
To support their efforts online, Michael introduces the Four Pillars of the Dell effort –
- 1st Pillar is Dell.com where they have their ecommerce platform, which includes chat, ratings & reviews and feedback from customers
- 2nd Pillar is their own communities like IdeaStorm and other branded communities
- 3rd pillar is the external communities like Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter.
- 4th pillar is the 100,000+ employees that can act as Brand Ambassadors as they talk to customers everyday in messages, communities and forums
While Michael does not see any real big obstacle in the growth in the use of social media by the company, the only real barriers is the migration of the organization from one of an in-bound / out-bound company to one that listens and responds to feedback from a wide variety of channels, but he is confident that they will continue to grow into the effort.
The debates they have to contend with are like those in almost every company: funding projects, the best way to measure their effort and defining what success looks like. The real benefit for Michael Buck and his initiatives are that from the top of the organization down, from Michael Dell to the front line employee, everyone is empowered and able to use their voice and fully engage in social media.
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To support the work in uncovering the ROI question in social media, we’ve set up a Fan Page at Facebook, and a LinkedIn Group. Come join us and let us know what the pressing issues are in your efforts to determine an ROI in your social media presence!