Damien Cummings is the Online & Social Media Director for the Consumer and SMB Division at Dell, based in Singapore. No stranger to the social media world, Damien is regularly seen speaking at conferences all over the region and is very highly regarded by the industry for his deep knowledge in this space. As there is such a hot interest in social media/social business in Asia Pacific, I wanted to understand where Dell is today, what it’s doing well, what could be improved and any plans for the future.
Considered one of the top five social media brands in the world (number one in the UK), Dell has embraced social media globally and I think it’s a best practice example of how true commitment to social media can deliver business growth. Dell is renowned for its employee social media training (with over 5,000 employees already trained), its social listening and command centre in Austin, Texas and it’s 24×7 “always-on” customer service philosophy.
A strong believer in delivering excellent customer service, Dell has call centers throughout the world – in Asia the centres are in Penang, Malaysia; Dalian, China; Tokyo, Japan and Manila, the Philippines. However, in recent years, customer problems cropping up on Facebook or Twitter have enabled Dell to respond faster to customer feedback and is helping Dell deliver on its promise of excellent customer service.
So what does this evolution mean and what are its plans moving forward?
Kicking off with future strategy, I asked Damien to explain in more detail Dell’s future strategy:
“For us moving forward it’s about social commerce – that is our future. If you think of social commerce, it’s not new. eBay has been a social commerce company since the beginning, with star rankings and the ability to rate sellers, buyers, and so on. eBay’s model is built on trust and it has always been a social business. Social commerce is definitely not a new thing, even though most people think Facebook and Twitter started this revolution.
“Social commerce can bring the entire customer experience to our products, where customers provide ratings, reviews, feedback, and so on – in real-time. It can also be integrated into how we plan our product strategy, because with this real-time feedback directly from customers on what is great and what is less valued, we can plan more effectively and phase out older products. For example, a five-star-rated-product stays, and a three-star-rated-product gets phased out.
“We also have Dell Swarm, our Groupon-esque group buying platform, and it’s been very successful. Dell Swarm launched at the same time as Groupon and it remains the only group buying service delivered by a corporation. Launched in Singapore two years ago, it has since been kicked off in Canada, Australia and the UK. Through Dell Swarm, we can better manage our inventory, and deliver our total product portfolio at big discounts – software, peripherals, monitors, cameras and TVs.”
But it’s not all about social media marketing for Dell. When I asked Damien what the top five marketing activities were for Dell, he said:
- Email remains the most effective
This is followed by
- It’s affiliate program
- Online advertising & social media marketing
- Above the line: TV/print
So email remains the most effective – take note marketeers!
Focusing on Dell’s social media success, Damien said:
“At Dell, we have completely embraced social media and changed our entire corporate culture to succeed. To become a truly social business, you have to make a complete cultural change – it is a huge commitment for any company to make. It’s not an easy process, and we’re watching many companies going through the pain of making these changes now, but it needs to happen. It is the future of doing business. I personally believe social media is a vehicle to build trust and a platform to create conversation with your customers, and it is happening. For those companies hanging back, fearful of what these technologies offer, all I can say is they are going to be further behind the leaders in their space the longer they wait. In fact, I believe some will be out of business if they don’t get moving.
“Dell’s challenge at the moment is to come up with social media marketing campaigns that really entertain our customers and are interactive as well. We haven’t done that brilliantly yet. When I think of successful social media campaigns, I think of “Old Spice Guy” – brilliant, entertaining, memorable and actionable. I’m sure it completely transformed the brand perception. We’re still too product focused – or transactional – and we want to tackle that in our social media strategy.”
I asked Damien about specific challenges and opportunities in the Asia Pacific region…
“Dell is committed to improving our overall level of customer service continuously, and social media has really given us a new platform to do this. But the Asia Pacific region is vast and complex – there is definitely not a one size fits all approach. Let’s look at China, where they have RenRen, which started out as a Facebook clone but has evolved into a vibrant social networking and social gaming platform. RenRen now has over 120 million people and we have developed a close relationship with them to better serve our customers in China. Dell is currently the number one business brand on RenRen (ahead of Nokia, which is the second most popular business brand) and we’re doing some really innovative work on social gaming. We recently launched the Dell “piggy bank” social game on RenRen, where our customers can play on the RenRen platform and earn virtual currency. This can be used to offset the purchase price of our products. It’s groundbreaking stuff for a corporate brand.”
Japan is different again. “Social media in Japan is not about business – typically people use social media anonymously because Japan is quite a conservative society and public dissent or debate is frowned upon. Apart from LinkedIn, the Japanese do not use social media like the rest of the world – where people personally identify themselves (first name, last name) on their own pages. You typically present yourself in a social media context as who you want to be, rather than who you are. The social platforms commonly used in Japan, aside from Facebook, are Mixi, Mobage and Gree. Business profiles within these social networks are new and still evolving so Dell hasn’t done a lot of work there yet. However, we’ve got big plans for 2012.
“North Asia and South Asia are completely different when it comes to social media use. Australia and New Zealand are great, as is South East Asia, where you have Indonesia, the second biggest Facebook community in the world. We’re currently focusing on building a strong fan base through Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. The next step is to create really engaging content like video, new product information and applications. Like Japan, 2012 is going to be a great year for us in South East Asia.”
Some final thoughts from Damien:
“Dell is great at transactional marketing and now we need to do better at building our brand through social media marketing. We are trying to both understand how we can change opinions and get people excited. Think of the Tipp Ex “Choose Your Own Adventure” campaign – brilliant. We are constantly asking ourselves – what can we do with social media? We know we need to be more creative, write engaging and educational content, really engage and connect with our customers, and so on, but how can we amplify our message? And then how can we entertain consumers/SMBs but also achieve the same results with different activities in the B2B space? It’s complex, so we’re continually looking at how we can improve our social media outreach and win.”
Considering Dell is one of the top five companies in the world for social media, I really appreciated Damien talking about the challenges they face rather than just focusing on their success. If you’ve got any brilliant social media ideas for Dell, I know Damien would be happy to hear them. You can easily connect with him on Twitter @damiencummings or if you’re looking for social media business ideas, I can recommend the Facebook page @ Social Media for Business – Powered by Dell.
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