Dell’s Social Media Manager talks to CBJ

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Richard Binhammer is Dell’s Senior Manager specializing in Social Media. He is a virtual expert and has led the charge in social media for Dell, a company that by its very technological nature is paving the way in online communications through social communities. Binhammer blogs, is on Facebook, and speaks in person at many events focused on social media. CBJ was pleased to meet him at a social media event put on by the Canadian Institute, and then had the opportunity to speak with him one-on-one about online communities.

Sara Kopamees:
Tell us about organizing and implementing social media strategies. Once you’ve decided your company should have a social media strategy, what’s next?

Richard Binhammer: The first step is setting up what your objectives are, and then the next step is determining what metrics work in that context.
The following step is deciding what is actionable and what to do with this information. That is the next key thing. When you think about it, social media provides a huge focus group. You don’t need a facilitator; it is going on. The question becomes how you engage in those conversations in order to have an impact, which can be any number of things.

SK: What can be considered an impact?

RB: Well, you hear a lot about Apple fans. There are a lot of Dell fans. The question for us becomes what do we do to work with our Dell fans more closely to solidify the relationship? We do have a huge fan base out there that like our products. So how can we [use social media] to address questions or concerns?
The answer to ‘what’s next?’ in the most generic way, is what can you learn from what you are seeing and how you actively engage in that. Michael Dell once said that [social media] is a tremendous opportunity to listen and learn and then constantly improve your business to become better—whether that means better response times, or fixing problems, or developing deeper relationships with customers, etc. For us, that means customers strengthen their commitment and loyalty to Dell and it allows us to have a much deeper and stronger relationship with them.

SK: Is implementing a social media plan something that has to be part of a full scale marketing/communications plan, or can companies adapt a strategy that can work for them even if they do not have that corporate magnitude?

RB: I think any business can incorporate social media. It is not an issue of size. In fact, what we’ve done [at Dell] is broken down social media into various different pockets across the business. It isn’t just marketing, or just communications, but rather it is a part of product development, human resources, product engineering, constantly tweaking to improve products, etc.

We’re integrating social media across every fabric of our business. I don’t think it is about size of business, I think it is about opportunity to really connect and learn and do better business with your customers, whatever the size. The first step is always listen first. If you listen, you want to from a company-centric perspective, but also from a subject-centric perspective. If you put those two together, you have a very powerful combination because you are hearing from both your customers but also people talking about your industry, so you can start to zero in on what matters to people, [and establish] how to improve products, services, relationships, our business, in order to further connect with those people who are interested.

Even if you’re a cupcake bakery or small retail shop, if you start searching for ‘cupcake special occasions’, the kind of conversations that you will see on the social web start to provide you with business intelligence, both about your own business as well as the business sector that you are in.

SK: So the key is to listen?

RB: Yes. People wanting to start [using social media] need to start here [by listening] and going where those conversations are. That is the other part of advice…go where your customers are, and you have to absolutely guarantee their privacy. If a customer is on the web talking about their computer issue, I don’t ask them to divulge all of the details. Don’t think of social media so much as a channel, as much as a tool, like email or the telephone. If you think about social media as a tool that you can use to do your job better within your company, once you start to break it into those little pieces, it becomes much more saleable.

SK: What is the future for social media for companies working in Canada? What do you see coming next?

RB: If you are in B2B, I think LinkedIn is important, because that is where professionals are connecting with other professionals to keep up-to-speed with news and the latest and greatest. LinkedIn is an important consideration that is often overlooked when I think about this. Beyond that, the prediction game of social media is a bit of a game. I think social media will continue to become increasingly media rich. By that, I mean Twitter is by-and-large a text-based tool and I think the media environment will change, with podcasting, video, pictures, YouTube, and all these other things beyond text—they will continue to enrich aspects of social media. Facebook has been doing some things to move forward with photography and video to go beyond text. But other mediums with also become important considerations.

SK: What’s Dell’s biggest success in the world of social media?

RB: Our listening and engaging with customers is a huge success that continues to grow and gets better all the time. Secondly, we continue to build out some of our listening capabilities, so that is exciting. We are globally monitoring the conversations all across the web, 24/7, picking up trends earlier, in terms of issues and what people are talking about and getting excited about. It is exciting to watch that kind of excitement. We are seeing social media impact product innovation, product branding, corporate reputation, customer support, and recruiting.

SK: I’m sure those areas will only expand in the next few years. Thank you Richard.

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