While attending the eTail East conference in Baltimore this week, I was pleasantly surprised at what seems to be a pattern in online retail shows this year. While the show was small, all the sessions were packed. And everyone seemed to be in generally good spirits — despite the economic situation.
One session I attended on Aug. 5 featured Liana Frey, the director of communities and conversations at Dell. Her session, “Community 2.0 — Lessons Learned From Engaging in Conversations With Customers,” focused on the success of the Round Rock, Texas-based firm’s use of social media.
What’s more, Dell Outlet has almost 1 million Twitter followers and is a “recommended” presence to follow by Twitter. It also occasionally makes “Twitter-only” offers available to followers.
Dell has put a concerted effort into its social media programs, according to Frey. It started them through a small group that was part of its corporate communications department. Today, however, social media is embedded throughout the entire organization.
“We’ve changed our organizational structure so that our tech department can answer specific technical questions through Twitter, and our customer service department can answer customer service questions,” she said.
While Frey admitted there’s some risk to this approach — where someone may say something that’s inappropriate, despite the social training, and damage the brand — she added that using this approach was worth the risk.
“We had enough confidence in our employees’ expertise that we felt it was important to make them transparent,” she said.
At lunch later that day, many folks agreed with Frey’s comments. Almost all of my tablemates said that for social media to work, it has to be part of a corporation’s culture. And, most importantly, there has to be buy-in from the top of the corporate structure — the CEO or president.
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