For a brand that went through Dell Hell five years ago, the American PC manufacturer has not only bounced back from its social media nightmare but has become one of the most well-known global case studies for making money on social media platforms.
Today, Dell earns US$15 million in revenue driving deals through @Delloutlet to its more than 1.57 million followers on Twitter.
The company also boasts a strong social media presence with more than 40 Facebook profiles worldwide, with thousands of staff representing the company on Twitter, and it has cracked the China market by becoming the most popular business brand in the country’s top social networking site RenRen with 800,000 fans.
Damien Cummings, online and social media director, Asia Pacific and Japan from Dell shared the company’s success in social media commercialization and marketing on the first day of SES HK 2011.
Cummings said a key social media strategy for Dell is content and listening and it is putting serious resources into doing that by setting up a Social Media Listening Command Center in Austin, Texas last year that now monitors around 25,000 conversations daily.
With Asia Pacific becoming an increasingly important region, particularly markets like India, Australia, China, and Japan, Dell has rolled out a mini version of the social media listening practice in India this month.
He said that the company is in the process of setting up a social media listening hub for Asia either in Singapore or Malaysia with a headcount of 10 staff comprising listeners, a leader that oversees analytics and CRM, as well as community managers that are trained in using social media for customer enquiry.
The Asia arm of the social media listening command center will also include presence in China that is scheduled to go live in the next six months.
Dell currently uses Radian 6 for social media monitoring and CIC in China but Cummings said they are considering local monitoring companies to fill the gaps for other Asia markets.
Social Commerce: Dell Swarm and Facebook Commerce
While Groupon and LivingSocial have converted many consumers to group buying, which is sometimes lumped into ‘social commerce’, this concept is not new for Dell.
The company launched a global pilot of the strategy in Singapore in May 2009, originally called the Dell–Intel Swarm. Since then, Dell rolled out an improved version in Canada, followed by Australia and is now live in the U.K. with plans to launch in other Asia markets such as China, Japan, and Southeast Asia.
Facebook commerce is an emerging platform that Dell is exploring. However, Cummings said he is “not putting big bets” on F-commerce because the social network is more of a platform to connect with friends than transactions so user-generated content such as ratings and reviews is key on the social site.
Training: Unleashing Employees as Social Media Advocates
Getting executive buy-in at Dell is not an issue since its founder and CEO Michael Dell is a big believer of social media. However, training 100,000 employees is no small feat. Not only does it involve human resource but a logistical challenge as well, which is now managed by a two-person team globally.
Within the company, employees have to undergo training from a specific curriculum before getting certification and so far 9,000 have graduated from the program.
“Having a social media policy in place is absolutely critical”, said Cummings, as the rights and responsibilities of each employee will be based around the policy.
Nonetheless, the internal training is by no means about producing ‘Dell robots’ but to keep to key principles such as protecting information, being transparent, responsible, and nice, having fun, and connecting.
On Monetizing Social Media…
Here’s what Cummings has to say:
“It starts with listening. You need to understand your customers. Many marketing driven campaigns are based on big ideas, forget that. You need to listen and identify key influencers”.
“Use your social media as a CRM platform. If you think about fans, likes, followers and connections that you are developing, think about how you develop an engagement plan. And treat them the same way you would treat direct mail/email because it’s exactly the same, you need to keep them interested and you need to keep getting the sales message out to them”.