The Big Brand Theory: Dell Gets Intimate with Customers



ImageIn one of those iconic technology company-started-in-a-dorm-room stories, Michael Dell saw that there was value to be created in selling computers directly to consumers.  In the early 80’s, that simply wasn’t the way of the world, and for the eponymous Dell, the insight would result in one of the most successful businesses of our age.

Today, the ethos of customer intimacy is embodied in the brand’s approach to social media. According to Amy Heiss, Global Program Manager for Social Media Training and Activation (SMaC U) at Dell, the emphasis isn’t on everyone learning to engage on social. “Instead,” she said, “we do think everyone should be listening in social. We certainly feel like there is an opportunity no matter what your role is; no matter what your business unit you’re a part of, to connect more closely with your customers; hear what they’re saying.”

The organization provides training to any Dell employee regardless of their grade level or tenure. Training is provided so that at the very least, each employee understands Dell’s point-of-view in social media, policies, overall corporate strategy, and how social media is used to talk about the brand – and then how all that is different from using social media at a personal level.

The training covers everything from how to amplify Dell’s messages to the software and tools that are made available within the company. There’s also a real emphasis on how each individual can use social to really listen to and connect better with customers.

ImageThe listening part is really emphasized.  If employees were simply encouraged to use social media more frequently, it might lead to a lot of useless chatter. By focusing on listening, though, the emphasis is on connecting more closely with customers. Heiss added, “whatever business unit you’re part of, we want you to have social media as part of your DNA.”

When an employee hears something on social that they feel is relevant, whether it’s good or bad, they’re encouraged to bring it to the attention of the organization’s Digital Command Center team.  Dell also uses SalesForce Chatter to encourage social media usage within the company.

Listening, Joining, and Leading.

Everyone is considered a brand ambassador at Dell, even at the lowest level. Within that world, though, there are several levels:

Employee Advocates

These are people who’ve gotten some training, and use their own social profiles or blogs to talk about Dell.  They’ll usually use the hashtag #Iwork4Dell, so that they can disclose their association with the brand. Alternatively, the employee might use an account with the Dell name, as Heiss herself is (

Subject Matter Experts

Subject Matter Experts are individuals who are designated as such not for their expertise with social media, but because of their role within Dell, such as a brand manager or product lead.  Once trained, they earn one of Dell’s creative acronyms, “Social SME” (Social Subject Matter Expert).  Heiss explained, “They’ll get specialized training, and access to tools like Appinions. We’ll point them in the right direction to the influencers for their products, service or area of expertise; get them in the right communities, talk to them about which hashtags they should be using, and really improve their social presence overall.”

#SocialExec Program

For individuals at the executive director level and above, Heiss’s team provides a highly customized and extensive level of training called the #SocialExec program.  Executives are provided with customized training modules, crafted to the individual’s Klout score and social footprint. The training will included information about which communities should be joined, hashtags, how often they should post, and where.

Dell also employs an outside agency, Ajax Workforce Marketing to assist each individual with their LinkedIn Profile.   Heiss noted that it’s very easy for executives of a technology company to get accustomed to speaking in their own language – thus this training is helpful to getting executivess speaking the language understood by the customer.

Members of the #SocialExec program are provided with access to content curation tools like Everyone Social to help individuals craft the most relevant information in their own social stream.



How does Dell know if they’re successful? Dell has a strong culture of measuring everything, so you can be sure that they’re measuring their own social media success. While Heiss spoke extensively on the ways that Dell is tying social media to revenue, it was clear that the organization sees beyond those metrics that are directly tied to any particular sale. 

Dell has developed a series of social scorecards, used across the organization and for each program. The scorecards include measurements of engagement, social footprint, and even Klout scores.

Fortunately, because of the Dell culture and philosophy towards social media, the scorecard approach is being shared at various industry events, where Dell thought leaders frequently speak. The scorecard approach to measuring social media impact is one tool almost any company could use to gain greater value from social.  In the process, they’re sure to also gain great customer intimacy resulting in greater value for customers and companies alike. 

The Big Brand Theory is an exclusive column for Social Media Today written by Ric Dragon that explores the social media strategies of big brands, both B2B and B2C. Look for the next installment next week. Logos by Jesse Wells.

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