Mack Collier (The Viral Garden), Kami Huyse (Principl, My PR Pro), Mario Sundar (Community Evangelist, LinkedIn), Lionel Menchaca (Dell)
The Dell blog was first conceived in April 2006 and Michael Dell himself was involved. 48% of the commentary about Dell was negative, and something had to be addressed. Michael Dell has been supportive of what Menchaca and the team has been doing. The Dell blog currently receives 1 million pageviews per week.
LinkedIn’s blog was started 8 months ago, also to have a two-way conversation with users. User education was the primary goal.
Huyse observes that the two blogs were started after a problem was perceived. So we should ask, What are my consumers’ needs. Still, even after launching corporate blogs they’re trying to figure things out. We have to look at what people use - like Twitter or Facebook.
There are ways to measure users’ reactions.
- The number of responses in the Blogosphere. But it must be compared with rivals. You may get 100 comments but your rival could have 500.
- Tonality of the comments.
- Survey. More ‘old school’ but it helps you make decisions.
- Focus groups.
Basically, find out what your communities want, and deliver it.
Menchaca elaborates on Dell’s Ideastorm. The first step is listening, the second step, analysing and the third step, taking action. This is the core of any social media Dell undertakes. Ideastorm is a mix between a message board and Digg.com. Any user can log in and contribute ideas on how Dell can improve on something. The community itself votes the idea up or down. It’s solely community-driven; Dell is not involved.
Then the core team looks at the top ideas and looks at how they can be incorporated into the business. Ideastorm has over 600,000 comments so far.
LinkedIn enabled ideas to be contributed by users.
Their three goals:
- User education. LinkedIn created product demos to show how features could be used, and what were their benefits.
- Customer support.
- Corporate information. They wanted users to get information directly from LinkedIn rather than from gossip blogs.
Sundar uses social media tools like Twitter to monitor their users. For example, Steve Rubel once had a problem with LinkedIn. Within an hour, Sundar had taken action and fixed the problem. Without such social media tools, LinkedIn would not know of these issues —> presumably, if the users didn’t bother to lodge a complain through the formal channels.
Menchaca cites examples of how Dell has also addressed major issues like the battery recall. He looks back at how Dell has progressed from phone support, to email support, to chat support and now, social media. It can be used to change perceptions. There’s nothing but your customer at one end, and you at the other end fixing the problem.
Importantly, Dell empowers its employees to apologise! There is real power as it humanises a big corporation. Also, the blog team is passionate about what they do. Once this momentum is going, it convinces more sceptical people to change their mindsets. Also, he re-iterates Michael Dell’s support for this.
Sundar describes Dell’s experience as ‘The Gold Standard’. He suggests using a Wiki as a product database and to help resolve issues. In addition, blogs can be a quick response tool for your users.
Huyse notes that the user will expect more as companies give more. Menchaca says blogs are here to stay. The purpose of a blog is to facilitate a two-way discussion. From a corporate perspective, that’s certainly relevant. One key plan for them in future is internal collaboration, like having a forum that pools ideas from the blogs. He tells Sundar he is in fact looking at a wiki. Dell still relies on using emails for tracking, which isn’t optimal.
Gal was a personal blogger and has now been hired by Microsoft to blog professionally. How can she manage having two different ‘personas’ online? Sundar takes this question. He too has a personal blog and admits this has suffered as there is only so much he can handle. But he advises not to neglect the personal brand.
Another lady asks how Dell integrates all customer feedback. Menchaca says Dell has an internal system to do so; it’s not publicly available.
Third lady asks if users’ feedback only matters if they’re online in the first place. [Didn’t quite catch the gist of her question, please correct me if I’m mistaken] Sundar notes that LinkedIn’s users must be online.
Guy asks about corporations’ fears in receiving comments. Sundar advice: Put ourselves in their shoes. If we had a personal blog and got flamed on it, how would we feel? Menchaca adds that they’ve asked themselves, why put up negative things about Dell which their competitors can see? The point is to bring up points to facilitate a conversation. Soon after launching the Dell blog in July 2006 he posted news of the Dell laptops exploding and linked to it. He received lots of calls and emails asking him what he was doing. His response was that people were talking about it elsewhere and it had to be addressed —> what better place than on Dell’s blog?
My verdict: A pretty good panel - frank and helpful.
Technorati tags: corporate blogging, Dell, LinkedIn, SXSW