Two billion Dell conversations are occurring each year online, through chats, forums, emails, etc. People are talking about you and you want to know what they are saying about you says Vida Killian who is responsible for Marketing & Online Conversations at Dell. She shared a quote from Michael Dell that states ‘These conversations are going to occur whether you like it or not. Do you want to be part of that or not? My arguments is you absolutely do. You can be a better company listening and being involved in that conversation.’
Killian says that Dell has three objectives: 1) Build the brand, 2) listen, learn and engage, and 3) rapid innovation. Dell knew that social media was having a huge impact and expanded social engagement over time. According to Killian, they started with customer forums in 1995, blogosphere and social networking platforms in 2006, IdeaStorm website in 2007, and sponsored offsite properties in 2008.
Dell developed its website IdeaStorm as a result of a need for a customer-driven, central location for new ideas. IdeaStorm.com allowed them to encourage ideas, feedback, innovation and dialogue with and between their customers. What were the results, you ask? The IdeaStorm website has received 12,000 ideas to date (2,000 in the 1st week alone), and has resulted in approximately 400 ideas implemented.
Killian shared key lessons that Dell has learned over the years about social media engagement.
1. Engagement ‘there is pent-up demand and customers want to talk to you.
2. Open source idea generation transformed the way they operate. They not only have the IdeaStorm website but have added a Facebook Application that allows customers to post ideas directly to Facebook.
3. Customers want to engage both on and off your site. Community Forums exist on Ondell.com and Offdell.com.
4. Transparency and authenticity are key. Killian says that social media is ‘forgiving’ if you respond quickly to the negativity.
5. Social media responsibility no longer is just the job of the social media team. In the early days, Dell had a central team. Now they have distributed ownership to different company departments including sales, service & support, product group, and marketing.
6. Define measurement objectives. Keys include Technorati ranking, Net Promoter Scores, website traffic, etc.
7. Meet specific customer needs through social media. For example, when they needed to move inventory from DellOulet, they used Twitter to send coupons to their customers. Now, @delloutlet is in the top 50 Twitter accounts and has over 1million followers. They currently have over 35 official Dell accounts on Twitter and many more personal accounts.
8. Customers want to connect globally. It is a challenge because of language and cultural barriers. Growth potential is huge to connect with customers all over the globe.
Dell’s original goal was to simply build the Dell brand. What they’ve found is that Dell doesn’t own the brand, customers do. When you engage with them, you are building the brand together which is more powerful than doing it alone says Killian.