(Left: Mario Sundar and Jeremiah Owyang)
LinkedIn, a social networking contact website is demonstrating how important customers are to them, as they’ve recently hired a Customer Evangelist. This role is appearing in many companies, I had such a role at Hitachi. Mario Sundar, a well-known Marketing blogger and thought leader has accepted the role.
What’s his mission? watch his video
I informally interviewed Mario on video, you can watch as he explains his purpose as a Customer Evangelist, Congrats Mario and congratulations LinkedIn, you’ll now have a better connection with customers, communicate more effectively and continue to put a human face on your company, you couldn’t have picked anyone more friendly and genuine than Mario.
I met with Lionel of Dell yesterday at SXSW (I even had the opportunity to interview him for my video show “Web Strategy, which will be published soon). He told me that Dell is getting around to actually listen to the large request for Linux from the IdeaStorm community, and has launched a survey.
I’ve updated the the Social Media Saga continues as Dell Corporation yearns for “Dell Swell” post, check it out if you want the whole story.
Social Media isn’t always pretty. Sometimes things happen in the news, that hit social networks and spread at rapid pace. So fast that it forces corporations to wake up and pay attention to how the internet is connecting people at a rapid pace. I’ve noticed a pattern today in my feedreading, and although I don’t have a lot of time, I wanted to highlight what I’m seeing as a Web Strategist.
This week, KFC is is the news as this bad press hits YouTube. The president promptly responded, and even did an online video, good job Gregg and KFC. View video remarks from KFC President Gregg Dedrick (although they need a direct link to the video, I had to splice this code together in order to link to it directly). I hope they keep this open transparent dialogue going, have you read my Web Strategy on Why Online Video is good for your Corporate Executives and How to Deploy?
Brand Hijacking is when customers and the marketplace take your brand and create their own messages, experiences, and share with others. For most corporate marketers, this is scary stuff. This WalMart Watch blog is taking on Walmart Corporation as well as Edelman. They’re calling for video submissions to support their cause. Even Wikipedia has an extensive section focused on some public shortcomings.
Related: Sean’s added a comment below that really should be elevated, he’s provided some coverage of Jet Blue’s execs humble and sincere video apologies and customer bill of rights.
I’ve some other examples of some videos that were created on YouTube against Starbucks. Today, I find it interesting that Dave Winer is calling out some recent online activities. It’s disappointing to some that Dell is saying to Linux users: Not so fast. I was hoping they were on to something, the saga is still not over.
Update: I’ve had my eye on this book, Citizen Marketers I hope to get a chance to read it in the near future. They’re doing a book tour, and will be at the Customer Reference forum, where I’ll be presenting.
Chronicling the Dell Social Media Saga
I’ve been watching this Dell story for quite a while, even been on a panel with blog expert Shel Israel, author of Naked Conversations discussing it.
[Dell has come so far, they’ve learned to listen, converse, and lower the corporate walls. While this saga is not over, this is becoming a classic case study of a corporation making a 180 degree turn using Web Tools]
Gone to Hell, Cursed, and Exploded
Dell’s taken a freaking beating in the past years due to social media bloggers. you can do a search on Dell Hell, and at one time, if you did a Google Search on the term “Dell Support” bloggers not happy with their support come up. (Today’s Google results show it’s still on the first results page)
Joining the Conversation, Cautiously, then with Gusto
Dell launched their One to One blog, which was met with mixed feedback. While some didn’t think they did an authentic job at joining the conversation, others supported them for the effort. A few weeks after the initial launch, Dell started to publically recognize their faults. At CES, I had the pleasure to hang with Michael Dell himself, (thanks to Lionel) where Dell said they were going to start embracing Social Media, watch the video yourself.
Turning it up with Customer Collaboration
Just a few days ago, I helped to announce IdeaStorm, the idea was for Dell to create a Customer Feedback/Collaboration web tools that will let customers and employees create products together. Marshall Kirkpatrick at Techcrunch, wasn’t sure if I was completely right that employees were fully onboard. Engadget cleverly modifies the tagline as they state that Dell Wants You to Make It Suck Less with Digg Clone.
Acknowledging the Voice of the People
Well it appears that Dell corporate (which I hope includes some employees) that they are on board and that they are taking IdeaStorm seriously. On this summary list, Dell demonstrates they are listening to what customers have been saying. A very strong meme is leaning towards open platforms (or none at all). It’s even moved it’s way up Digg, a popular user voting site. Not sure if the solution is worked out, as the costs may be even higher to get a wiped hardware machine.
Blindsided from ignorance
Learned how to listen
Built tools to join the conversation
Learned the right way to interact
Reached to community
Acknowledged customer requests
Next Step (and most important) For Dell:
This is the most important part, the final leg of this cyclical journey is to get Dell to give the products that the people ask for.
Document and Measure
It will be very interesting to see if there’s a reduction in Product Research costs from these tools. Could be a very insightful case study on Social Media ROI for corporations, I hope Dell shares this info with me. Keep at it Lionel Menchaca (the Community Manager), Michael Dell and the rest of the Dellions. By the way, if this whole concept is very new to you, I recommend you read the Cluetrain Manifesto.
Update March 2: The saga continues with IdeaStorm injures scores at Dell — “sounded like a freight train”. Apparently, Dell will not be building what the people asked for in IdeaStorm. Ars Technica speculates the many reasons why it doesn’t make sense for Dell. For what it’s worth, either way, the market knows what the market wants, and it’s documented, in addition for great buzz for Dell.
Update March 13th:
Dell has made an announcement that it plans to offer Linux to customers, the flavors will depend on how users answer the survey. I met with Lionel yesterday, and knew about this in advance. I was able to interview him for my video Web Strategy Show, he’ll be up soon.
Update March 29th:
After reviewing over 100,000 survey submissions, Dell is now offering it’s Linux flavored offerings. The company is listening.
Update April 3rd, 2007:
Lionel Menchaca visits in person with Jeff Jarvis, who first coined the business blogging case study “Dell Hell”. This community relations in real life was a success.
Update May 24th, 2007
Ubutu, a flavor of Linux is finally released as a product. Lionel uses video to tell his story.
Update June 16th 2007
The consumerist releases an ex-employees 22 tips on how to buy the best computer, although Dell demands a retraction. Jeff Jarvis sympathizes with Poor Dell, Lionel of Dell responds from the Dell one to one blog.
Update October 18, 2007
Dell’s continued push to reach to customers has paid off, relationships, communication and conversations are starting to be the very fabric of their company. Business Week runs this story, praising Dell for all that they have done. A few times people have told me they are tired of hearing about Dell as the case study of success, the problem is, few or no other companies have moved this far in such a short time. The deserve our applause.
A few weeks ago I interviewed Angela Vargo for PodTech about the Southwest group blog. If you know anything about Southwest their logo has a heart (and apparently their website reflects this too). Today on valentine’s day, the blog is showing candied hearts, rather than the usual nuts. I learned this from their design firm RD2 (and one talented designer) who’s done an amazing job helping to make a corporate blog interesting and clever.
I’ve captured this screenshot, since I don’t know how long it’ll be up.
Update: I just heard from someone at Southwest that this graphic was a ‘gift’ from RD2, wow. Now that’s a firm that I would want to hire. A group that cares about it’s client, willing to go the extra mile.
I really like this piece from Jupiter’s Michael Gartenberg who gives some practical Lessons for Analyst Relations. For many corporate marketers, having excellent reviews and research done by Analyst firms helps the decision making process, especially with complex products and solutions that span multiple groups.
In the last few years, a new role has emerged in the decision making process, bloggers (often normal customers or prospects that have an opinion about your product) can influence the decision and buying process.
At Hitachi Data Systems as the Online Community Manager, I had an informal role to be responsible for Blogger Relations, I’ve reached out, built relationships, and even met them in real life. Microsoft IE team treats me like a blogger/analyst and has invited me to cover their beta and final release of their product. Now, at PodTech, I consult our Fortune 1000 clients on how to deploy Social Media. Here’s a crash course on Blogger Relations.
Here’s a few tips to help you as you reach out to bloggers in your industry.
1) Blogger Relations is often the role of many people in the company, a previous term we all know could be called customer relations. Same customer love, just some new tools a few rules.
2) Bloggers may have first hand experience with your product, and may be more trusted than Analysts, Press, and your Marketers. Bloggers that talk about your products may be a customer or someone that has experience using your product. Sometime this could be different from Analysts who are not using your product. In the level of trust, it’s possible that prospects may trust someone who has first had experience very high. An Analyst may have authority in a particular subject. In many industries, this role is merging as bloggers become so knowable they become authorities. This is the case of Blogger/Podcast Martin McKeay in the security industry.
3) Know your bloggers and know them well. I’m echoing Michael here, as you should really spend time reading a blogger in your industry before making contact, and especially before pitching to one. How do you pitch to a blogger? You don’t. It’s a very different approach. I get pitched several times a week, it’s easy to spot who reads me and who doesn’t, guess who gets the welcome.
4) Provide multiple points of contact. As a Community Advocate/Manager (here’s some resources on becoming a Community Manager), your job is to listen to the market and line up the conversations with the right people in your company. You’re more of a traffic cop rather than a person can answer all the questions. Besides, it’s likely that you’re not an expert at every technical aspect of your product, find those that know and teach them to interact with bloggers in your industry using the same tools, or some of these responses that Nathan recommends.
If you’ve anything to add, or any questions, please leave a comment or contact me, I’m here to help.