There's been some online buzz since Charlene Li released a new research report written in conjunction with Wetpaint. The study looked at how the 100 most valuable brands are engaging customers online. Dell ranked #2 just behind coffee juggernaut, Starbucks. The report identifies both of us as “Social Media Mavens,” which are defined as brands with the highest level of engagement in seven or more channels and have an above average engagement score.
There's two ways to dig into the details:
- Download the report PDF here (or by clicking on the report front page to the left)
- Explore the interactive database at ENGAGEMENT db
The report features best practices from us, Starbuck's, SAP and Toyota. It rightfully mentions that we started our social media efforts in the midst of some challenging events, After living through some of those tough early days, I can say I wouldn't change it for the world. As I've mentioned before, challenging times are the best time to start engaging customers through social media efforts. That's one reason why I'm impressed by the cool stuff that GM is doing these days. Back in 2006, blog outreach and Direct2Dell helped pave the way for things like IdeaStorm and our forays into other sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and others. And work we do outside the Dell.com domain is important because that's where most of our customers (or potential customers) are spending a lot of their time online.
Charlene’s report also points to a loose correlation between financial performance of the brands, grouped as “Social Media Mavens." Mavens on average grew 18% in revenues over the last 12 months, compared to the least engaged companies who on average saw a decline of 6% in revenue during the same period. The report doesn’t claim a causal relationship—but there is clearly a correlation and connection. As Charlene puts it, “a company mindset that allows a company to be broadly engaged with customers on the whole probably performs better because the company is more focused on the company than the competition.” I agree with that line of thinking. In my view, companies that use social media to connect with customers effectively are going to have an inherent advantage over the ones that don't. Building customer relationships by engaging them through real conversations is the right strategy. When we nail that piece, incremental revenue becomes a by-product.
Being recognized as one of the top brands in social media is a positive thing, but we know we still have lots to accomplish. We also know there's any any number of ways to improve. Here are some of the things we're already working on:
- Figuring out how to scale our social media efforts into other parts of the company—Tech Support, Marketing, Sales and beyond
- How to streamline the account login process to make it easier for customers to join the conversation here.
- Improving the Dell.com/Twitter page and other pages like it.
- Integrating content from Dell Community into Dell.com and other social media networks.
- How to aggregate information from blogs, message boards, and social media sites in a way that's useful and engaging to customers.
That last point is key and one that's going to be difficult to get right. But, if we get it right, we'll be able to plug customers into a wealth of information in areas they're interested in, and more importantly provide them answers to questions about Dell products wherever they are asking them.
We're pumped to be in such a good crowd. Congratulations to the other companies for the achievement and the innovations that got you there. I for one hope that more companies take a look at the customer connections that social media enables and decide to engage from there. As the playing field gets more crowded, it's going to be harder for companies to stand out. I think it will lead to more innovation and more importantly, it will enable customers direct access to employees within companies.
What's it going to take to remain a leader in social media this year and beyond?