Social Media Saga continues as Dell Corporation yearns for “Dell Swell”

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.

Saga Timeline

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.