Social networking has redefined the Web and reshaped the way users share and communicate. Forward-looking companies recognize the value of this—social networks provide a cost-effective platform for fostering customer relationships and providing support. At the forefront of this movement is Dell, which has embraced social media and established a presence on multiple social networks and Web 2.0 resources. According to Jason Duty, Global Director of Social Outreach Services at Dell, "Participating in places like Facebook and Twitter, on social media and online communities, has been a great way for us to connect with our customers where they are."
Social networks have evolved rapidly from niche tools that kids and geeks use to mainstream platforms that rival the Web itself. Facebook alone has more than 800 million members, and it has surpassed Google as the online destination where users spend the majority of their time. Twitter has 100 million users—more than half of which use the service daily and account for upwards of 250 million tweets[i] per day.
Consumers appreciate being able to find and communicate with businesses from social networks as well. They are already familiar with those platforms; it makes sense for customers to seek out and engage with businesses using the social networking tools they are comfortable with. Contacting customer service through social media channels is often quicker than trying to get support through traditional channels, and the interaction has a more personal feel that helps build customer relationships.
From a business perspective, social networks can be vast, cost-effective customer relationship management (CRM) platforms if used properly. Businesses with a social media presence can market new products or services, answer customer queries and provide support.
By providing FAQs and tutorials and building a thriving online community, companies can also empower customers to find their own answers and help each other. Making the information available, and giving customers the tools to find it, results in more satisfied and loyal customers.
Social networks also give businesses an opportunity to better manage brand reputation and to take advantage of the strength of word-of-mouth recommendations. Companies can monitor social networks for keywords and phrases to see what is being said about their products or services in the trenches of the social networks. When there are complaints or dissatisfied customers, proactive monitoring provides an opportunity to respond and resolve any issues. Regardless of the final outcome, the very act of identifying disgruntled customers and reaching out to them will reflect well on the brand.
When it comes to marketing, social networks have the power to reach tens of thousands, or even millions, of potential customers. Users share their experiences with their social networks—where it may be re-shared and quickly spread.
Dell Leads the Way
Dell recognized the power of social networking early on, and it has been a pioneering force in adopting and adapting social networking tools. The company has created a team called Social Operating Services (SOS) that operates from a state-of-the-art Social Media Command Center.
"It's so important for us to be listening to our customers in social media,” says Adam Brown, Executive Director of Social Media at Dell. “A) Because they're there. B) Because they're talking about us—over 26,000 times a day. And, C) They have chosen those places as the venue they feel most comfortable in."
Here are just a few of the ways that Dell has embraced social media:
- Facebook. With more than 800 million users, Facebook is a preferred destination for many online users. The main Dell Facebook page has nearly 800,000 followers. It is a platform that lets Dell share information and deliver additional value, and it also lets Facebook users post comments and questions. The interaction between Dell and customers, and between the customers themselves, provides value and helps Dell establish stronger customer relationships.
- Twitter: Michael Dell himself is on Twitter (@MichaelDell), and Dell manages and monitors a wide variety of other Twitter accounts including @Dell, @DellCares, @DellEnterprise, @DellSMBNews, @DellTechCenter and more. These Twitter accounts enable Dell to easily share information and announcements, and provide customers on Twitter with a point of contact to get questions answered or find support and troubleshooting resources.
- YouTube: Dell maintains a number of YouTube channels where it distributes an array of quality video content. The YouTube channels provide rich content and information to educate customers on a wide variety of topics regarding Dell and technology in general.
- Google+: Although Google hasn't yet introduced the concept of business profiles on its social network, Michael Dell himself has a presence on Google+. Dell has nearly 80,000 people following his personal posts, where he shares interesting thoughts and information. He has also conducted Google+ Hangouts—an impromptu video chat—with other Google+ users. Dell's presence and participation on Google+ give the company a human face and enable people to connect with Dell—the person and the company—on a more personal level.
Social media presents a huge opportunity for businesses to improve communications, strengthen brand reputation, and instill customer loyalty while also reducing costs. At the same time, social networks provide companies with the tools to deliver superior support and build customer relationships.
"At our core, Dell is focused on the customer,” says Brown. “Social media gives us a powerful new venue and platform where we can have those authentic and genuine conversations with our customers every day."