Yet Dell feels like yesterday's company. They've flopped with numerous initiatives:
- no iPad killer: the Latitude XT tablet launched in July 2008 but Apple has 95.5% market share now
- no iPhone killer: their design was rejected by carriers as too dull
- no iTunes killer: their site currently shows a contest which ended on April 30, 2010 (enlarge the screenshot)
- no iPod killer: Dell makes music players?
Wait, There's MoreDell has other problems too
- 2005: Jeff Jarvis' "Dell Hell", which is possibly now over
- 2010: $100 million fine for fraud for overvaluing the company from 2001 to 2006: "… for 20 straight quarters Dell would have missed consensus quarterly earnings estimates but for receiving payments from Intel…" (Forbes)
- 2010: shipping 11.8 million defective computers between 2003 and 2005: "Even the firm defending Dell in the lawsuit was affected when Dell balked at fixing 1,000 suspect computers" (New York Times)
Dell's Secret WeaponMaybe social media is Dell's secret weapon.
With anticipation, I went to see RichardAtDell at Third Tuesday Toronto. This was the first time I've seen anyone from Dell (since they shut down their mall kiosks in 2008).
Richard didn't seem prepared. His talk consisted of points jotted on a piece of paper. Dell missed an ideal opportunity to showcase their technology. I didn't expect Richard to use an iPad but why not a Streak tablet or some other gizmo?
You wouldn't expect a presenter from Nike to walk in with bare feet. By his actions, Richard implied there wasn't a single Dell product worth using to enhance his presentation.
TaboosDell claims to listen to customers and Richard said he'd leave lots of time for questions. He didn't and he refused to take any about Dell Hell. Why restrict or direct conversations? Maybe product quality is still a concern.
On @RichardatDELL, the bio warns "DO NOT AUTO DM" him. Is this necessary? No one wants to receive automated direct messages. Does warning the culprits really stop them?
I got the overall feeling that open dialog is not truly encouraged.
What Was DiscussedRichard gave examples of how Dell is using social media. There are 170,000 consumer reviews on their sites and engineers have read every single one. Dell has held unconferences for employees (these are attendee-run events like BookCamp, FreelanceCamp or PodCamp). They invited 15 fans and 15 unfans to spend a day at Dell asking questions (outcome not explained).
Richard explained that social media is not a channel. It's a tool that leads to better business. Social media doesn't scale unless it's used as a business tool.
Dell does sophisticated data analysis. They've found that the social web can also be used for B2B. Other discoveries are currently secret. For instance, Dell claims they can track social media to revenue.
The Main PointWithout knowing what competitors do, it's difficult to tell if Dell is a social media master and has a competitive advantage. There were no jaw-dropping insights in the presentation. Dell had the opportunity to show they're the company to watch, but didn't.
Maybe this was the main point: Dell uses social media so extensively that it's become boring. After all, we now take electricity, air conditioning, power windows, and the Internet for granted.
If social media is still new to you, you may feel excited or anxious. With experience, you may get bored too. Maybe that's when the financial benefits flow in.
- The Return of RichardAtDell (Third Tuesday Toronto)
- What you can learn from "Dell Hell" (Customer Think, Mar 2008)
- Inside "Dell Hell" (Businessweek, Sep 2005); see reader comments
- Stark lessons from the Dell fraud case (Forbes, Oct 2010)
- Judge approves Dell's $100 million wrist-slap in accounting fraud case (IT World, Oct 2010)
- Suit over faulty computers highlights Dell's decline (New York Times, June 2010)
- Comparing BookCamp. PodCamp and PersonalBrandCamp
- Measurement Matters: free tools
- The five marketing keys from Google's Chris O'Neill
PS The Samsung hard drive in my Dell Mini 10 netbook is reporting problems even though I have a pricey SSD (no moving parts). The one year warranty expired last month. This netbook cost more than my new iPad but is hardly comparable in performance or joy of use.