Yesterday I had the honor and privilege of attending Dell’s second annual Customer Advisory Panel (CAP) meeting, as a replacement for my long-time colleague and friend David Strom on behalf of his employer’s Website ReadWriteWeb.com (aka RWW; see “Dave Strom Note” at the end of this blog for more info).
Members of CAP at Westin Hotel (7/19/2011, © Creative Commons; photo by Dell staff)
While one of the purposes of the Dell CAP meetings is to solicit input and feedback from the customer perspective, the name of the event omits another one of its primary foci — namely, it’s exclusive focus on social media, especially blogging, twitter, facebook, and so forth. Most of yesterday’s discussion focused on how Dell is using, measuring, and working with social media to provide better service and support for its customers, and to offer a faster and better channel for information dissemination as well as communication between Dell’s staff (of which there are now roughly 25,000) and its millions of customers.
I’m going to be writing an article about the details of that encounter for Dave at RWW later today, but that’s not why I’m writing this blog. I’m writing this blog because yesterday’s encounter also forcefully showed me that social media activity and savvy can be good for an IT career, or help IT professionals with a yen to get into higher levels of service, support, marketing, or communications, a great bridge from a purely technical position into something that combines technical savvy and skills with a communications and spokesperson role.
How might this happen? I’ll tell you how:
- Dell has created a social media support organization that started with 10 people in 2010 supporting English-language-only communications, and today involves 70 full-time staff supporting communications in 11 different languages around the world.
- Dell has invested millions of dollars in an astounding monitoring/measurement/dashboard environment called Radian 6 that provides detailed metrics on posts, tweets, Facebook wall activity, and so forth, associates them with key search terms, various product and service categories, and ranks such information and provides informative visual displays and dashboards. We visited Dell’s Social Media Operations Center yesterday: with its 6 huge screens’ worth of display and ongoing status updates it’s as impressive as any of the corporate NOCs (network operations centers) I’ve visited over the years at companies like EDS, IBM/Tivoli, or Computer Associates.
- Dell has created dozens of positions that essentially require employees to interact with users via twitter, Facebook, and so forth, or to create and maintain a regular blog presence with ongoing comment and chat support. These are generally technically and experienced IT professionals who also have the ability to communicate and interact well with customers. Several of them told us yesterday that they have never enjoyed any of their other jobs, at Dell or elsewhere, as much as they enjoy their current gigs. And FWIW, at least one of the social media team members told us yesterday that this is the first job she’s ever had where it continually comes as a surprise to her that it’s 5 PM or later, and already time to go home. At work, on the job, it seldom gets better than that!
What all of this tells me is that it’s crystal clear that social media have become an important conduit for companies to interact with customers (and partners, and even internally). That means that IT professionals with an interest in social media, and the ability to use it well, can carve out interesting and potentially more lucrative job positions and paths than might otherwise have been available to them. And it’s a win-win situation, in that effective use of social media is proving to be a great way to improve the customer experience, and burnish a company’s or organization’s perceived value or worth in the eyes of those customers.
Dave Strom Note
I knew of David as the founder and first Editor-in-Chief at Network Computing magazine when I met him in 1993 when I joined the Program Committee for Interop as Novell’s representative. When I left Novell in May 1994, I was delighted to be asked to stay on the Program Committee, so Dave and I worked together in that capacity until I left that group in 2002. Over the years, I’ve also worked for Dave at numerous publications including Tom’s Hardware and Tom’s Guide, Digital Landing, and on various corporate projects of one kind or another. Now, I’m working for him again at RWW. In all fairness, I should also observe that I’ve hired Dave to work on projects with me from time to time, so that relationship is not all one-way, either. But Dave is a passionate and well-informed user and observer of information technology, and a long-time source of insight and information about the tools and industries that support IT. Check out his blog, his video product reviews, and learn more about his speaking business, if you like.