Tag Archives: Dell

“Safety in Numbers: How to Fight Brand Hijacking on Twitter”

Last week a reporter asked my opinion on the state of brands on Twitter after the Exxon Twitter-jacking debacle.

“As more companies move on to Twitter, how are we to know who is real and who is a fake?” she asked.  “How can a reporter or a consumer know that this person can be a trusted source?”

With Exxon, someone named Janet had claimed to be the Exxon Mobil community manager.  Forrester Research’s Jeremiah Owyang got excited that Exxon was getting involved with Twitter–3 days later, it turned out Janet was a fake.  She hadn’t said anything negative about Exxon, and actually did a great job of addressing people’s questions…but she’d hijacked the brand.  Other big companies might not be so lucky.

Back in the old 1.0 days of the Internet, you could be pretty much anyone–a 40 year old man pretending to be a 13 year old girl–and no one would know otherwise.  In the Web 2.0 world, however, our identities are built on and confirmed by our relationships.

Using Facebook as an example, my identity is more-or-less confirmed by my friends.  Not that it can’t be forged, but by checking my profile, my friends, my work network, etc., you’d be able to make a fairly good guess as to whether I was real or not.

Nope, Twitter doesn’t confirm your identity–but you can still use the network to validate someone.  Jeremiah could have easily searched on Twellow for other Exxon employees on Twitter.  Had their been any Exxon employees (there aren’t), he would have been able to ask them about Janet.  Did they know her? Exxon is a big company, so maybe not…but I bet they have a directory in Outlook.

Companies like Dell, IBM, Sun Microsystems and Microsoft all have tons o’ employees on Twitter, making it easy to find a spokesperson. (Click links for Twellow searches).

A couple of steps any company can take to ensure their brand is protected:

  • Don’t just create a XYZCo generic Twitter account, get as many employees on Twitter as possible
  • Add any official Twitter names to the company’s main contact page
  • Encourage employees to mention company name in Twitter profile
  • Create a directory of employees in the company on Twitter and distribute internally
  • Encourage employees to add each other.  Even if they may not work together, Twitter can help strengthen the camaraderie within a company
  • Encourage employees to respond to any Tweets about the company they see — bonus if they search for the company’s name or industry keywords

There you go. Now whenever a reporter, blogger or consumer is looking for a company rep, they can find many to whom they can turn!  Oh, and it might not hurt to claim your company’s name–if it isn’t already taken!

What systems does your company have in place to validate Twitter screen names?  Do you have just a generic name? Do you let employees actively Tweet?

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[The above photo, “Kids at zebra crossing” by fiskfisk on Flickr, used under Creative Commons]

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Filed under Community Relations, Marketing, New Media, Public Relations 2.0, Social Media, Social Networking

“Finding Balance: Developing Your Company’s Social Media Policy”

\Back in the early 1990’s, email over took the phone as primary business communication tool. As more of their employees used email in their personal lives, companies struggled to figure out how best to integrate its use in the workplace, while still managing company interests.

Today, corporations are faced with an onslaught of new communication technologies, making it even harder to adjust. Their biggest fear: proprietary information getting unwittingly leaked by an employee on their blog or through Twitter.

My article in today’s Media Bullseye discusses what companies like Sun Microsystems and Dell are doing to ensure employees know how best to utilize these new technologies. Also, I ask experts for best practices when developing a social media policy for your company.

In the piece, Joel Postman (check out Joel on 3Q’s in 3 Min), Principle at Socialized, gives 3 tips for developing an effective internal social media policy. You’ll have to go to the article to see those, but since we are all about transparency here at socialTNT, I wanted our readers to get the inside scoop. Below, I’ve posted some excerpts of my email exchange with Joel that weren’t included in the article.

What steps has your company taken to develop its social media policies? Share your tips in the comments. Oh, and check out this great article from 1998 in the New York Times on the evolution of Email Etiquette.

Excerpts From Email Exchange with Joel Postman on June 26th, 2008:

  • Were you at Sun when they developed their social media/blogger policy? I was not. I did write the social media policy for Eastwick Communications. This document served as the basis for several client social media policies.
  • How would you best describe Eastwick’s social media policy for employees? Eastwick’s social media policy applies to all employees, whether they blog or not, and covers all use of social media and social networks at work and away from the office. It is an extension of the agency’s standards of business conduct and reminds people that they represent the agency in everything they do, and should always act in good faith on behalf of the agency and its clients. Employees are entitled to have a private life, and private use of social media, but when they are talking about anything that might relate to the agency’s business, or when it is clear they are affiliated with the agency, this should be considered when blogging, posting comments, using social networks, etc.
  • If so, who wrote it? Did employees give input into the process? Several employees as well as senior executive management gave input, as did the agency’s lawyers.
  • Before posting your own post or responding to another post, was there an approval an approval process? None of the social media policies or agreements I have developed included a mandatory approval process for blog posts or comments. The very first draft of Eastwick’s social media agreement came back from the lawyers with a clause requiring executive approval of all blog posts, and the executive team immediately agreed to delete this clause. I advise clients against any formal review or approval process. The keys to ensuring appropriate blog posts and compliance with company rules and legal requirements are training, a clear blogging strategy, and a solid social media agreement that informs people of their responsibilities.
  • Did Sun do any “best practices” type training? When I was at HP, we had blogger training for executives. I did not manage this, the web team did. I am currently working on executive blogger training for a publicly held company. The focus of this training will be social media etiquette, legal compliance, and the company’s blogging strategy.

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[The above photo, “Getting Dublin Moving” by The Labour Party used under Creative Commons]

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“Yahoo’s Jerry Yang Doesn’t Understand Blogging”

Jerry YangThis weekend, all eyes turned to the blogosphere to watch as the Microhoo deal fell through. Jerry Yang, CEO of Yahoo, also turned to blogging to plead his case. Sadly, the blog became a PR mechanism and one-sided message delivery system. Take a look at a few quotes:

“Our first quarter was probably one of the most exciting quarters in our history in terms of delivering innovative products and services that really move the needle and make a difference for our users and customers: Acquiring Maven Networks. Launching Buzz, OneSearch 2.0, voice-activated mobile search, video on Flickr, Shine….”

“So, what’s next? With Microsoft’s withdrawal, we’ll be better able to focus our energy on growing our industry leadership and maximizing value for stockholders. We’ll continue to execute on our plan — making your Internet experience as personal, relevant, open and social as possible, serving advertisers so well they insist on working with us, and opening up Yahoo! in a way that developers dream of.”

It’s a great letter to shareholders–or a press release–but it’s not a blog post. As we’ve mentioned before, a blog is a conversation. If Jerry wants to use it to put out company messages, that’s fine, but what’s the point. He’s losing a chance to re-energize the Yahoo user base.

Take a look at sampling of some of the comments:

A user named Jive sums it up best: “Above all, listen to us, your consumer, because we use your products and have specific wants, habits, usage etc.”

Wanna make it back on top, Jerry? Here are some suggestions:

  • First off, read and respond to some of the comments on this post. There are a lot of people with great ideas. You also need to think about the harsh criticism and respond thoughtfully.
  • Ask questions and listen.
  • Set up an Ideastorm type forum for people to leave suggestions and then close the feedback loop. Let users know they are being listened to and that their ideas are gaining traction. You want people to know that Yahoo! has changed? Show them by letting them get involved in product development.
  • Set up a community manager and go address the concerns in the blogosphere head on. Let them know that Yahoo wants to embrace the Internet again. Stop thinking 1.0 and start embracing your users and their voices.

Jerry, I love Yahoo. You guys have so many great properties, but they are all disconnected. If you read the comments on your post, you’ll see many users feel the same way. You’ll also see that most of them still love Yahoo. Give them something to get excited about. Your users make or break the company. If you listen to them–and interact with them–they will welcome you back with open arms. I guarantee it.

What do you think? Did Jerry’s post legitimately address user concerns? What do you think Yahoo should do to reengage its user base?

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Filed under Community Manager, It's A Conversation, Public Relations 2.0, Social Media

“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

“iPrez.TV: A Utopian Vision of Democracy?”

Max HeadroomWith presidential primary season picking up steam, we bloggers have started contemplating the effects of social media on the primaries. Some candidates are using ustream.tv to have live videochats with voters. Other candidates have put up flickr streams or delved into Twitter. The forerunner among younger voters even sends mobile alerts and provides mobile wallpaper and ringtone downloads. Exciting times, but what if this social media frenzy went past the elections and carried over into the presidency.

Imagine if you will, a world where government is fully transparent. The president videocasts his life live, turning off the cam only when discussing matters of national security. He polls the populous Twitter-style to get feedback on upcoming proposals. Cut the weekly radio address–Radio? What’s that?–the president of the Social Age does a weekly Seesmic post.

New Media President meet your new staff member: Director of Community Relations. The Director and his underlings are responsible for all outreach and relations with the populous. Just like any good community manager, he follows all online dialog and responds thoughtfully. This doesn’t mean spitting out spin at negative postings. Instead, he actually listens to and addresses the concerns of the populous-at-large.

Doctor WhoThe Director of Community Relations is also responsible for maintaining and tracking feedback. Like Dell’s Ideastorm, the web community can post ideas to the appropriate department and also vote digg-style on submitted ideas. All ideas get tracked through completion. A idea/policy development wiki will also be set-up, allowing interaction between thought leaders, academics and government agencies.

As long as it’s not top-secret, all government employees will be encouraged to blog. As much as the Social Age president would like to blog daily, he simply can’t. His style is more micro-blogging through Twitter or Utterz. Instead, his full cabinet will blog, each member responsible for content every two weeks. Supreme Court justices and Senators will blog in the style of TechCrunch’s CrunchNotes, allowing the world to see the back story behind or reasons for decisions and opinions.

What’s the public thinking? Instant polling and voting through SocNets get immediate response on hot topics. Voting in elections may also be done through cell phones. OpenID coupled with YouService-like security prevents voter fraud.

Finally, forget having to go to DC to see the National Archive. The New Media National Archive (lovingly dubbed Archive 2.0) stores the Prez’s videocast and flickr stream. All government documents will be able to be searched and accessed from anyone’s home computer.

Because more people can get involved, disenchantment is low and voter turn out is high. Yes, the government of the Social Age will create a more true, transparent democracy where politicians and citizens interact.

How do you think social media could be used in government? Would it create a government for the people, by the people? Or would it create a 1984 nightmare?

[All you Sci-Fi Buffs should check out Vengeance on Varos, a Doctor Who episode where citizen vote instantly by touching the TV!]

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Filed under Citizen Reporter, Community Manager, Community Relations, Democracy and Media, Future of Media, New Media, Social Media, Social Networking

“Brand of Brothers: A Social Media Chorus”

“No. 59″ by racatumba on flickrOver the last couple of days, many people are asking the question: Can brands be social? The vision of social media relations, to me, sees consumers interacting and conversing with a brand. So the question becomes, what is a brand?

Way back in the day, a brand was a symbol burnt into the hide of an animal to symbolize ownership. Modern day branding burns a stream of messages into consumers’ minds to reinforce the image or idea a company wants. A brand can also be identified by its logo or trademark, but traditionally a brand symbolizes a promise or experience a company aligns with a product or service through consolidated messaging.

Over the last couple of years, the notion of “brand” itself has been changing. With social media, consumers now have the ability to publish and spread their own messages about a brand through forums, blogs, Facebook groups, etc. This can create a sort of schizophrenic branding: Corporate messaging vs Consumer perception/messaging–also known as “reality”–clashing for the loudest voice. As Dell proved, modern brands have to step up to the plate and accept, interact and engage with the consumer, or they come across as being abstract and aloof from reality.

But consumer voices aren’t the only ones vying to be heard in the modern brand. In many companies, you have employees who blog. The new media tools allow all the voices within the company to have a chance to be heard, unseating the talking-head spouting corporate values/messaging from the ivory tower. As the blogosphere grows, I think these voices will become more splintered, but still add to the discussion and image of the brand. For example: Not that I would consider Todd Defren the ivory tower, but his blog combined with my blog, the SHIFT employee blog Unspun and Marie Williams’ Flackette blog help shape the brand image at SHIFT Communications. People looking for our services can find these voices and get a sense of what we are about as a firm.

The Twitterverse will be progressing more like the blogosphere. Since Twitter requires less effort than blogging, pretty soon you will have several people from a company Tweeting. For example, there are several of us that use Twitter at SHIFT. We engage with each other and our followers in a series of small conversations. As more tools come into play to harness the power, people will be able to follow our team (a micro-community), creating another extension of SHIFT Communications’ brand.

Since the new brand, to me, is the conversation that the corporation, its employees and its consumers are having, the new, evolved brand will need to get social, embrace social media or get passed by.

What do you think the modern brand is? Which came first, social media or the splintered/schizophrenic brand?

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[Above photo, “No. 59” by racatumba on flickr, used under Creative Commons]

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Filed under Future of Media, It's A Conversation, Marketing, New Media, Social Media, Social Networking

“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