Friday, June 12, 2009

Dell Outlet Demonstrates Social Media is a Legitimate Marketing Channel

Mashable today posted an update on the financial performance of the @DellOutlet program which I blogged about previously. You can read it here:

This is a major consumer brand driving real sales in a relatively short time via a new experimental platform. It took them two years to grow their follower base to over 620,000, but the payoff has been tremendous. They reported that they have surpassed $2M in sales through their Twitter channel.

This brings me to a topic that I have begun to think about in the past few weeks. Is social media going to become a new marketing discipline? Should your company be hiring a social media strategist who is an expert in Twitter and Facebook to manage social digital direct response marketing programs? In the short-run considering the weak economic climate and that there may not be a subject matter expert in your organization I recommend you lean on your existing online marketing teams who may manage email, site marketing, affiliate programs, SEM and SEO. If they are resource constrained you could also hire a Summer Intern, or contract some of the work to a social media consultant.

Regardless of who manages the work they should be setting up processes and procedures that are repeatable and scalable and that integrate with those already in place to manage your other direct channels. This is important because in the long-run Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms will simply become another direct marketing channel. The social media channel will differ from traditional email, direct mail, and catalog channels in three ways:

1. They are networks for distributing customer communications in real-time at scale to a highly engaged audience who has raised their hand and asked to participate in a relationship with your brand. The messages this audience receives are then spread throughout the networks of each of these customers which increases the reach of your original message.
2. They enable brands to listen and understand what customers think about their product or service. When was the last time you received a promotional email from your favorite specialty retailer that invited you to reply with your thoughts, post it on your blog, tweet it to your Twitter followers or to Digg it? In my experience, never. In fact these 1-way email communications state very clearly in their messaging, "Do not reply."
3. They are a relationship management platform that humanizes brands and allows marketers to engage in real-time 2-way conversations with their valuable customers.

So my advice is don't sit on the sidelines and wait for your corporate strategy, CRM or IT department to determine the impact of social media on your enterprise and how marketing should be leveraging this channel to drive sales. Instead innovate, get in the game, follow the lead of companies like Dell, test, learn and adapt. If nothing else, you'll have fun and who says work can't be enjoyable?


  1. It's a good point, Amanda, about the fun factor. Never underestimate that, because so many good things happen so much more easily in a business when people are having fun.

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