How important is social media for companies?
To be effective as a corporation today you have to become a social business. Since social impacts just about every part of the business, you have to invest in the social learnings, social understandings and social engagement in order to maximise the current state of your business.
At Dell it’s not only one part of the company that’s impacted by social. While there is a chunk of people in marketing we have people in sales, support, and other areas. It’s really embedded in the fabric of the company. We’ve now trained more than 7,000 employees across all sections of the company to be certified to engage in social media on behalf of Dell. This is far from just a marketing endeavour.
We have a very prescriptive process of employees being able to rise to the level of social on Dell’s behalf. They have to take eight hours worth of social media training before we give them the green light. Even the people who are not doing so as part of the Dell voice are made aware of the social media policy, which includes disclosure.
How has tapping into social media channels affected Dell?
A lot of the things we heard when we started back in 2006 were a little bit close to take as there was a lot of negativity about the company. It exposed to the entire organisation what the sentiment towards Dell was through social media. One of the first things we did after that was launch Dell Cares, now Social Outreach Services, through Facebook to allow people to communicate directly to people empowered to sort their issues.
In the first month of launching it negative sentiment on the Facebook page dropped from 27% to 17%, and 13% in the second month. We’ve been down to low double digits to upper single digits ever since. It’s listening and responding that’s the core of everything we do at Dell, and it’s the response and how we manage what we hear that measures our success.
How are brands stumbling on social media?
From the very beginning we realised social was not a traditional marketing tool, and if you treat it as a broadcast medium you’re going to fail. So many brands continue to do that today, despite the fact the medium requires engagement and authenticity and organic communications which are two-way.
The core things companies need to know are whether people are talking about your brand, product or area, and, if that’s the case, you need to establish a presence in social media.
Something a lot of small and medium businesses don’t understand is establishing a presence should only occur when you are resourced in a way you can manage the community and the conversation. There are a lot of gradations you can do to manage brand perception in social media that doesn’t require a full-time presence in community management.
That is, first and foremost, listening. You need to listen to what’s being said about your area of your industry, to the point where it gets down to the granular conversations about your brand. Is the industry being talked about and what’s being said? With that you can get your finger on the pulse of the trends, what the conversations are and distil the keywords and pain points.
If you have any search paid advertising you can link that to it. This is without even getting involved in social. This is listening.
For smaller to mid-market companies, that data can also be accessed in a wide variety of ways. You can use free tools out there like Google Alerts, HootSuite or Bing Searches. There are a lot of ways they can be brought into homemade dashboards.
What trends will Australian businesses face on social media this year?
One of the things I see here from an outsider’s perspective, and talking to the local team, is the growth and maturity in social in the last year from businesses and customers. To that degree we believe customers are going to be expecting more of brands than they have in the past. Customers are being trained to expect more authenticity, more organic relationships and more listening.
In the US when customers Tweet they expect the brand to respond. We started doing that in 2007 and everybody was shocked. Nowadays they’re expecting it. We’ve launched a program where, instead of just listening to issue resolution and intent to purchase, we’re thanking people for saying positive things about Dell. That’s surprising people.
What trends are happening internationally?
One is the increase in visual sharing, with sites like Instagram, Pinterest or Vine on Twitter. That element is going to become more prominent in the coming year or two.
Another is curation. Right now there’s so much being generated you need a curator to make sure the amount of time you’re spending is used on things that are important to you. User curation with influential users, will become stronger too.
Then there’s individual social capital. For years people have been talking about influencers, but for us the direction is more along the lines of understanding a complete profile of an individual: his or her levels of expertise, areas of interest and, secondarily, his or her level of influence.
There’s too much grey stuff around understanding influence, but the data and signals generated by individuals will become more embedded across any social media campaign across the company.
Richard Margetic is the global director of social media, Dell.
This piece first appeared in the March 1 edition of B&T Magazine in the World View section.
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