‘On the Couch‘ is the new series of posts on SocialCouch.com which will feature interviews with social media experts, start-up guys and other tech savvy people. To kick start this interview series we have an amazing person on board. I am pleased to publish this interview with Mr. Richard Binhammer, Senior Manager at DELL handling Strategic Corporate Communications, Social Media and Corporate Reputation Management. Richard is more popularly known in the social media world as @RichardAtDell
1) Why social media? What is the motivation for Dell to travel on this track?
The best explanation for Dell’s social media involvement comes from our CEO, Michael Dell, who said this: “These conversations are going to occur whether you like it or not. Do you want to be part of that or not? My argument is you absolutely do. You can learn from them. You can improve your reaction time. And you can be a better company by listening and being involved in that conversation.” October 17, 2007, BusinessWeek
You might also find Shel Israel’s interview (http://redcouch.typepad.com/weblog/2008/02/michael-dell-ph.html ) with Michael Dell helpful in understanding the background of Dell forging ahead in social media over last 3 nearly 4 years
2) How well are these social media marketing efforts benefiting Dell. How different is it in comparison with conventional marketing methods and how good is the ROI?
Social media benefits depend on what your business objectives are to start with. There is no single ROI. It all depends on what you are trying to accomplish.
In Dell’s case we have seen benefits in revenue generation; as an early alert to matters we want to address as a business; it has generated customer-inspired innovation; and we have seen benefits in terms of relationships with our customers, as well as overall brand and corporate reputation benefits, just to mention a few.
As for the difference with conventional marketing, I guess it depends on what you consider conventional marketing. If you mean advertising, two way conversations are very different than broadcast advertisements in terms of their tone, nature and cost. However, if you mean other conventional marketing methods like meeting with customers at a trade show or even a series of meetings, social media has much in common with those personal and direct connections.
3) Richard, your LinkedIn profile tells us that you are a senior manager at Dell handling social media and Strategic Corporate Communications. Do tell us how a typical day at work is? How big is your team and how do you work along with the @delloutlet team?
I’m not sure there is any such thing as a typical day. I start by checking Twitter and other “feeds” to see what is of importance to Dell and/or what is of interest to us from a social media perspective. I share that information and commentary with relevant people in various parts of our business, then I usually have a couple of meetings related to our social media initiatives and how we can continue to use social media for effective and efficient business purposes…then repeat earlier parts of the day online depending on the day or what is up.
It’s not my team…there are various Dell teams, from various businesses and we all work together, including @delloutlet. We work to share and keep forging forward both in social media but also in connecting with customers…to listen learn and engage in ways that make sense for the business and for our direct relationships with customers and business partners. We also work together to support more people in more parts of more of our businesses to discover the benefits and apply social media so that is useful in their job and for those interacting with, or interested in, Dell.
4) In the past Dell has tasted the bitterness of social media in the form of YouTube videos depicting exploding batteries, the Dell hell meme etc but now every social media case study talks about how Dell made $3M sales via Twitter and how the Direct to Dell blog increases customer interaction. How was this transition possible and how hard has it been?
The transition was both possible and straightforward when you go back and start from the answer to question 1.
5) We are all aware that @delloutlet is doing a great job in the US and @delloutletUK is also in place. Are there any plans to expand it on an international scale in countries like India, Germany and Canada where the twitter user base is growing rapidly ?
Check out dell.com/twitter and you will see this is rapidly underway. Canadians asked for Dell Canada on Twitter and that is why Dell Canada is there…and look at what they are also doing on Facebook. Dell in Brazil is growing strong on Twitter, as is Dell Outlet in Ireland and Australia in the small business market….I could go on but suffice it to say International growth on Twitter and elsewhere is a major consideration and priority.
Sahil Parikh, Founder -Deskaway.com
6) How does a small business that is not known build a presence/brand on Twitter?
Hi Sahil and thanks for the question. Twitter is a great place for small business to broaden their markets and to really build loyal followers. Technology is great for small business, we all believe in that at Dell J. Have you seen the Dell tips for small business on Facebook …all about social media for small business? Specifically for Twitter, I always say identify your customers and listen first…then engage and join the conversations in valuable ways…and the customer relationships will strengthen and so will the business. Hope it helps.
7) Is there anything that Dell has learnt from their competitors who run similar efforts on Facebook, MySpace,Twitter etc?
Hi Harini…that’s a great question. I think every business that is a smart business is constantly listening, learning and engaging in this new social medium and that we all learn from each other and the various case studies and information around.
8) How did Dell get started with this whole twitter thing and do you remember how the first few customers on Twitter came in?
We really just started experimenting and then because of the specific business needs of @delloutlet there appeared to be some great business opportunities and through experimenting some more we proved those things meshed. I also believe the people and connections that were being made around Twitter also supported the business growth.
9) Finally, Have you ever felt that Dell or your team could have done things in a different way? In other words, has there been a ‘big mistake’ in this whole social media journey which you could have avoided?
I think you always live and learn and can always improve, personally and as a business. We always wonder about how to do things different – better and more effectively too. So in that respect, sure we can look back and say we could do this or that different, or let’s try it this way or a new way…and we constantly do that and are open to that. I know I personally stumbled some….but when you fall down, you stand back up, dust yourself off, learn from it, grow and do it better next time (I hope). As for any “BIG” mistake, I would say no big mistake…there were a couple tiny mis-steps where we made quick and public commentaries and like I said, learned and moved onward.
Hope you enjoyed reading this interview with Richard.
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