Tag Archives: Dell Hell

“MacBook Error: Six Tips To Apple On Social Media Marketing”

It’s MacWorld fever in San Francisco. I think their new Macbook, the MacBook Air, is beautiful, but everytime I hear the new name, I hear MacBook “Error.” Today I want to address the biggest MacBook Error: the thinness of their conversation in the social media realm.

Yes, I know they are on top of the world, but there are voices from the blogosphere that point to cracks in the MacBrand base; early adopters and super fans feel left out. As Apple becomes more of a consumer brand, more mainstream users will purchase Macs. This means more complaints, stretching the ardent fans–and customer service–thin; no longer will every negative Apple post be bombarded with super users flaming the blogger. To address this, Apple will need to stop pushing products and messages at its community. Instead, they will need to become more engaged with their community.

Steve, are you listening? Here are some of my top tips for Apple on refreshing their Social Media efforts to revive the Fan Base:

  • Stop trying to silence your superfans!
  • Beautiful Ads and Demos, set them free!
    • Sharing is Caring. Let the videos into the wild by allowing them to be embedded into other sites and shared. Just by sending a link back to the page is tres 1.0. Do this with Steve’s keynote, too.
  • MacBook Air: Behind the Scenes
    • For movie buffs, the “Extra Features” on a DVD are one more reason to buy. Same goes for tech geeks. Show us the behind the scenes of the MacBook Air. Intimate video chats with the Hardware Design team. Live podcasts (with call-in) featuring the User Experience team.
    • Too hardcore? Ok, open up developers’ blogs!
  • Like a shepherd herding the flock…
    • A Community Manager could address the worries early adopters are having re the MacBook Air. They can also hit up the Green bloggers upset about Apple’s lack of true environmental concern, or just common users P.O.-ed about Leopard’s constant crashes. Go and address those posts head on. Cut the messaging and speak to them like people.
  • Open up a dialog
    • Apple currently has a web-based form for feedback, but it feels like you are sending it out into a void. Make it a community, like Dell, where users can submit suggestions/concerns and then vote on the ideas. Yes, there is a forum, but it relies heavily on super fans…and forums are SOOOOO 1.0.
    • Customers also need to know that they are taken seriously. Close the feedback loop. Let them know the status of their suggestions.
  • I’m Streaming of a Live MacWorld
    • Ok, it may be a little far fetched, but I want a cam to be following someone through the MacWorld experience, like a fly on the wall. Bonus points if that fly is STEVE JOBS!

I love all my Apple products, but I’ve been a little upset since upgrading Leopard. No longer can I play music on Front Row through my Airport Express. I filled out a comment form and have not received any sort of follow-up. I’ve dropped so much money on my desktop, laptop, keyboard, Airport, Airport Express, and I deserve some sort of acknowledgment.

What do you think? Is Apple heading towards Dell Hell or are they on the right track? What suggestions would you give Apple on reinvigorating their fan base?

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Filed under Best Practices, How To, It's A Conversation, Marketing, New Media, Rants, Sharing is Caring, Social Media, Video

“Apple’s Social Media Efforts Need to Ripen”

During the last several years, Apple has undeniably been the innovator in hardware design, software and personal consumer tech. They’ve also been on the cutting edge of entertainment by effectively bringing the music industry into the digital age.

Last Friday and Saturday, Robert Scoble wrote two posts that remind me (and others) of Jeff Jarvis’ Dell Hell rants. When Scoble installed last weeks updates, his computer got stuck in reboot. Here’s what he has to say:

So I restart. And get the same message. I do it five times just to make sure.

And so, now I’m back on my Windows machine.

Screw you Apple and your ads saying you’re better than Microsoft. Screw you. Screw you. Screw you.

His second post discusses the brand promise that Apple makes through advertising and how he sees it flawed. You can read his full list of grievances in the post. While I don’t necessarily agree with everything he writes, I agree that Apple will need to change soon if it wants to keep up in the Post-Dell Hell era.

In its current state, Apple has a strong community of devoted users. Do an online search and you’ll find plenty of mac forums and mac blogs. There’s even a fake Steve Jobs blog. The company itself is surprisingly lacking in engagement with this community. In fact, it has actively sued bloggers in the past. In the last few weeks, Apple has even sent a cease and desist letter to a nine year old.

As Apple computers (not just iPods) are purchased by more mainstream consumers, Apple will find itself slowly being pushed into the conversation. Andy Beal at Marketing Pilgrim sees two situations that will force this change:

  1. It will reach customers that aren’t capable of tinkering and tweaking with their own stuff. Even Scoble didn’t know he could fix his computer by a “start in Safe Boot (press and hold the Shift key at the startup chime)? Starting in Safe Boot forces a directory check, so will verify if there is a problem with your startup disk.”
  2. The Apple evangelists–the ones that have always come to Apple’s defense–will be stretched too thin. They simply can’t jump in to every conversation and defend every forum comment and blog complaint.

So what can Apple do to increase it’s social media marketing and PR efforts:

  1. Create a Community Evangelist position to monitor the Apple dialog on Blogs for negative conversation threads and comment as a human. This helps consumers feel like they are being listened to, while simultaneously allowing Apple to more-or-less steer the conversation.
  2. Be honest. So I said they could steer the conversation…within reason. The users will be able to smell PR spin, so don’t try to incorporate too much messaging. If there is a problem, acknowledge it. Right now the Leopard install has caused crazy bugs that people are talking about in forums. Mac continues to deny it. I’m getting PO-d.
  3. Create a blog. Steve Rubel said it in 2004. Apple is the only large tech company to not have one. I understand corporate secrecy in product development, but come on. Dell’s is a great example. They talk about OpenWorld, Word of Mouth Marketing, Green issues, geeky consumer tech, servers, etc. They also have videos!
  4. Close the feedback loop. Wait, first create a feedback loop! Back to Dell: they have a created the IdeaStorm community to allow users to submit ideas and then other users vote on the ideas. The whole process is tracked with transparency and also shows results at the end. This is key: It lets consumers know they have a voice and that someone is not just listening but also acting as a result.
  5. Instead of suing bloggers for leaking things, show videos of products as they are being developed. Transparency and openness. Of course, you need to wait until you are close to release. If others are going to do it, owning it makes Apple cool again.

Oh, and putting out ads that show this:

When this is the reality:

Is really, really bad. It makes Apple look removed from reality, disengaged with the consumer and, frankly, a little arrogant.

What are your suggestions to Apple? Or are they doing ok? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Any Mac Marketing or PR folks wanna speak to socialTNT’s readers? Tell us what’s up!

Before I get flamed: My whole house is full of Mac equipment from desktops, laptops, network gear, etc.

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Filed under Best Practices, Community Relations, It's A Conversation, Marketing, New Media, Public Relations 2.0, Sharing is Caring, Social Media, WTF?

“Dell Hell Freezes Over: A Great Example of Turning Lemons into Lemonade”

Last week, BuzzMachine‘s Jeff Jarvis wrote an article in BusinessWeek discussing Dell’s reversal from social media nightmare to social media maven. It’s been a pretty amazing adventure and, to me, it feels like the last chapter has finally been writtern. Let’s take a look at a few of the practices Dell has put into place to turn around its online image.

[For the full “Dell Hell” archives in reverse chronological order, click here.]

It all started on June 21st, 2005, when Jeff published a post entitled “Dell Lies. Dell Sucks.” To Jeff’s surprise, he amassed hundred of sympathetic comments and thousands(?) of trackbacks. Not necessarily a good form of publicity, but Dell’s “look, but don’t touch” policy didn’t respond to bloggers.

This interview with a Dell spokesperson from 2005 really represents the old notion of one-sided communication that still exists in most big companies today. Houston Chronicle Tech Blogger Dwight Silverman caught the contradiction:

“With our direct model, we feel like we already have a good, two-way communications channel with our customers,” Davis said.

Of course, it depends on what you do with the incoming communication. A two-way conversation only has value if you take action on the problems you’re hearing about.

Finally, Davis asked an interesting question: Did I know of any companies that do actively go out and respond to blog and forum postings?

In 2005, it was rare. Today, the idea of corporate blogs is not so innovative, but companies still have a hard time with blogger/community relations.

In April of 2006, Dell reached out to disgruntled bloggers in an effort to resolve their issues. In July 2006, Dell launched its Direct2Dell blog. These words from a post in November of 2006 on the Dell blog starkly contrast the above comments:

Every day, we receive reports from a search string in Technorati and other blog search engines, and we meticulously analyze the results. When we find someone who has an unresolved issue with their Dell computer or our services, we reach out to offer assistance.

Ok, great, a corporate blog and customer service people who listen. Where’s the innovation? Well, it gets better. Last April, Dell launched the IdeamStorm community.

IdeaStorm allows users to make suggestions and then vote (in a digg like manner) whether to “promote” or “delete” an idea. But this voting isn’t hollow. Dell then provides results, closing the loop with consumers by informing them what user-initiated ideas have been executed and what suggested items are forthcoming. One major result of the IdeaStorm community was the decision to package Linux on consumer desktops and laptops. I know of few companies that allow such active consumer input.

The biggest success, to me, was a change in corporate thinking. Look at these words from CEO Michael Dell:

“These conversations are going to occur whether you like it or not, O.K.? Well, do you want to be part of that or not? My argument is you absolutely do. You can learn from that. You can improve your reaction time. And you can be a better company by listening and being involved in that conversation.”

Yup, that pretty much sums it up. The conversation is going on without you. People are tired of not having a voice. Now that they have quick and easy tools through which they communicate, they are gonna make their own messages. Isn’t it better to be a part of that discussion and perhaps steer it, rather than let it explode into a “Dell Hell”-type wildfire?

Lessons learned:

  • Read and Respond
    • Know what is being said and thoughtfully reply in a timely manner, especially to complaints
  • Talk to your customers as a real person speaking to other real people
    • It might not hurt to have a full-time blogger-relations person
  • Create a forum through which customer’s can provide idea/feedback
    • They are gonna do it somewhere, why not on your site?
  • Allow customers to vote on feedback
    • Collaboration and democracy increase loyalty
  • Report on results that come from feedback
    • Show them their voice has been heard and that their input is utilized

In the future, Dell plans on creating wikis that users can edit together [not sure if these are more techinical, knowledge-base type wikis or more customer-comments style wikis, both will be interesting to watch]. I’d also love to see a page that aggregates everything that is being said about Dell in the blogosphere. Maybe it could be tagged and then quickly sorted so that customers could see the full-spectrum of the discussion.

What do you guys think? Did Dell pull it off? Do you know of any other companies that user similar collaborative techniques? What could Dell do now to improve/enhance its current social media campaign?

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Filed under Citizen Reporter, Marketing, New Media, New Media Masters., Public Relations 2.0