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Dell: social media business or the just good marketers?

Dell is the social media super-hero these days and one of the most named examples of social media intelligence. At least, if we believe in a lot of blog posts…

Last week, Dell reported in a blog post that their Twitter account @DellOutlet earned more than $2 million US dollars in revenue. Money that can be attributed directly to their Twitter activity. This does not surprise us, having heard that Dell broke the $1 million US dollar barrier some months ago.

Nevertheless, let’s think a minute about the ‘social aspect’ of this Twitter account. The funny thing about it is that Dell is just using old marketing techniques to generate revenue via Twitter.

Or is the use of coupon codes a marketing innovation of the web 2.0 era?

These couopons come flying into my mailbox at home every day – quicker than I have time to throw them in a bin.

“Dell Outlet sells refurbished Dell products at great prices, but inventories fluctuate, making it difficult to know when products are available or on sale. Dell Outlet uses Twitter as a way to message out coupons, clearance events and new arrival information to those looking for Dell technology at a discounted price.” (quote from Dell blog)

Reading this statement, the question is what is the social media strategy? Isn’t this just good old marketing tactics? This Dell Twitter account @DellOutlet is not acting in any way like social media has been teaching companies lately.

“Listen, learn and engage” (Brian Solis) is the value proposition of social media. The customers are coming to you as they have heard about the quality and value of your product, service or business. Then, they buy and do some good word-of-mouth activity via Twitter, Facebook, blogs, rating sites etc. for your business. This is resulting in community building – not a sales channel like the Dell example.

Dell is talking, pushing and selling. It is the good old communication and marketing practice we all know from some years ago.

Why is Dell so successful? It is a matter of simple marketing technics. It follows the old sales intelligence… From more than 650.000 followers, 10% will be real followers (as you just follow when you are in the evaluation process mode before a purchase decision) = 60.500 followers. And if you are lucky company 5% will buy your product in the end = 3.025 users. This tells us about an interesting average revenue of 661,15 US dollar per Twitter client.

Ah, I love sales statistics… though admittedly, these might be taken from the easiest perspective of ROI measurement.

Spot On!
But is this Dell activity really ‘social’? It is the email marketing system – tables turned upside down. Opt-In or follower? Subscribe or unsubscribe is the question… Email promotion or social media promotion? Email spam or social media spam? What comes next in the marketers arena? And, the account is just following Dell accounts… is the client/follower really interesting for them?

Not saying this is not a very clever approach reaching out for clients… well-done, Dell.

Your views much appreciated…

News Update – Best of the Day

Although a study shows that 36% of internet searches lead to negative results, Microsoft and Google are still fighting their virtual competition for the best search engine – Bing vs. Google. Now, an eye-tracking study by User Centric offer a first look in the success of both. In sponsored links Bing performed better…

“However, sponsored links… attracted more attention on Bing (~42% of participants per search) than they did on Google (~25% of participants per search).”

Social media enters school education in America. Xavier Lur gives some interesting insight in the learning options of YouTube, Twitter or Facebook. And he links to 25 cases to use Twitter in the Classroom…

What will Bloomberg’s digital future and expansion strategy be looking like? Andrew Lack, CEO of Bloomberg’s new Multimedia Group, says that it will rely on original video news content to mobile phone users around the world. Watch his words at the Advertising 2.0 conference…

Report says, social networks not used for purchase decisions

Social networks ‘rule’ our days. Nevertheless, their monetization outlooks may be hit by some news, I came across yesterday. A recent study by Knowledge Networks reveals that only 5% of users enter social networks for guidance on purchase decisions in any of nine product/service categories.

Everybody is talking about ways for companies to promote their services, products and brands. It seems that companies cannot exist anymore if they don’t integrate social media tools (Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc.) into their web strategy. And seeing the results of the study this seems to make sense. It shows that 83% of all internet users between 13-45 use social networks (47% regularly).

However, only 5% of the respondents say they are influenced in their purchasing decisions and seek guidance from social networks. Also, only 16% are more likely to purchase products from companies that advertise on social networking sites.

“Our findings show that marketers need to be prudent and people-centric in how they approach social media,” said David Tice, vice president and group account director, Knowledge Networks. “Social media users do not have a strong association between these sites and purchase decisions; they see them as being more about personal connection – so finding ways to embrace that powerful function is key. The fact that they are using social media more now than a year ago is a strong indicator that the influence of these sites and features is here to stay.”

Spot On!
The private aspect and the main intention of “staying connected” with friends and family is still the most important feature of social media. When people log in social networks it seems as if they switch to an atmosphere of privacy – and they don’t want intensive ads to interfere with peer interaction. Although the majority of users believe that ads on social networking sites are a “fair price to pay” in return to use the services for free.

People on social networks need to understand that operating a social network costs money and is not altruism business – and social networks operator should make this clear to their target group. Maybe the social networks should give people the option to either pay for access or accept ads, right from the registration process (or group together like the Social Globe). This might be a way to stop the ‘cost free web’ atmosphere…

PS.
Companies, to my experience, know that it makes definitely sense engaging in social networks. Nevertheless, there is still not enough knowledge and expertise on why, how and in which way to use social networks. Finding the right web strategy and the appropriate approach on how many and which social network activity makes sense, becomes the biggest challenge for them in the future. Rethinking their marketing, PR and sales processes is a must have to make way for an integration of social media into their company strategy. And Dell has proven that social networks are used for purchase decisions…

News Update – Best of the Day

The difference between Facebook pages and Facebook groups is…? Well, if you still don’t have the proper answer… OK, here is one of the finest explanations by Howard Greenstein that I found on the web for those companies that evaluate on smaller or bigger interaction on Facebook.

Companies still ask what the return for investing in social media is. Beth Perdue summarizes some great suggestions from experts at the New England Xpo for Business at Boston in terms of how marketing mentality is shifting. Definitely an interesting read…

Finding good case studies for social media marketing is not easy. Del Monte Foods has created a great example in just six weeks. Adage focuses a speech by Forrester Research’s Josh Bernoff. Watch it and learn from it…

Study: How women use blogs and social networking…

A recent study Women in Social Media from BlogHer, iVillage and Compass Partners, shows that the motivation of women using blogs and social networking differs. Blogs for women follow the purpose to find the right information while social networking platforms have the ‘mere’ sense to connect.

The results state that US women are nearly twice as likely to use blogs than social networking sites. Blogs are seen especially valuable as a source of information (64%), advice and recommendations (43%), and opinion-sharing (55%). Social networking sites are more used to share their strong affinity to connect and to entertain themselves.

Women show much more interest and increase their activity in social media. So, women are turning to blogs (55%), social networks (75%) and online status updating (20%) to satisfy their interest.

The new study found that women spend less and less time engaging in traditional media activities like watching TV, listening to the radio, or reading magazines or newspapers.

And for women blogs are becoming more and more important as a trendsetting and purchase sources of information. Seeing the influence of blogs on purchase decisions, the study makes clear that women are more likely to buy a product after reading a customer post or reports about the item. 45% of survey respondents bought a product after reading about it on a blog.

“The scale of social media usage among US women continues to grow, and blogs remain the go-to resource for those who want to gather information, share ideas and get reliable advice,” said Elisa Camahort Page, BlogHer co-founder and COO. “At a time when the economy is top-of-mind for more than 70% of these active social media participants, women who blog are turning to online resources, including blogs, to help them make their day-to-day purchasing decisions.”

Spot On!
The influence of blogs on purchase decisions shows the importance for companies to evaluate blogs as a new important part for their media plans. Reading about the habits and attitudes, the study revealed that half of the survey respondents participate in social media activity daily and weekly or more often. When we think of the 42 million women participating in social media weekly, 55% of women do some form of blogging activity; 75% participate in social networks (i.e. Facebook or MySpace) and 20% are using Twitter. The data provided shows the change in the media landscape. While traditional platform face a decrease of importance, social media is on an all time high. The time seems right to rethink traditional and digital media planning.

News Update – Best of the Day

Companies still don’t know whether to ignore Twitter or being aware of a Twitterstorm might save the brand’s value. David Sarno and Alana Semuels show good cases why major brands learn they’d better respond quick – focussing on Amazon, Skittles, Domino, Coca-Cola and Hasbro.

How to explain the social web to your parents? Obviously, all of us who engage in the social web world have faced this problem. In May, I have decided to speak at the Webinale on ‘career 3.0 – split between productivity and personal branding’ which will give some insight how successful companies might work with the social web of the future. Jeremiah Owyang did an excellent storyboard explanation on the social web and compares the industry with a ‘Social Reef’.

“…see this space like a reef, a complex ecosystem that has so many variables and changes, each day is different.”

Still thinking on how to behave on Facebook the right way? No worries, here is the answer and a wonderful advice by YourTango and their film ‘Facebook Manners’.

UK: Internet users love browsing social media – less shopping

A recent study by Hitwise reveales that UK Internet users are spending more time browsing online media than ‘going’ online shopping. In March 2009 9.8% of all UK Internet visits were directed to social networking websites and 8.6% to online retail websites. Compared to 2008, the figures turned around (online retailers 9.7% – social networks 8.2%).

In the passed year, online retailers sawe a downsize in traffic from paid search like sponsored or paid for links on search engines (i.e. like Google, Yahoo!, Live and Ask) – 2009: 8.9% and 2008: 10,1% of visits to online retailers came from a paid search listing.

“The growth of social networking, online video and the continuing popularity of news websites has meant that an increasing proportion of consumer’s online time in the UK has been devoted to online media,” commented Robin Goad, Hitwise’s Director of Research.

The traffic that Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube and the likes generates for online retailers increased in one year from 5.2% to 7.1%. And social networks now generate 58.3% more traffic than webmail providers (Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail and GoogleMail). The best performing categories in 2009 were Auctions, Fashion and Department Stores.

“Social networks are a relatively small but fast growing source of traffic for online retailers,” commented Goad. “At present, only a minority of retailers pick up a significant amount of traffic from social networks, but many of those that do have seen a positive impact on traffic. For example, fashion retailer ASOS has a strong presence on Facebook and in March received 13.3% of its traffic from the social network. Another example – in a very different market – is online bookseller Abebooks, which currently receives a quarter of all its UK Internet traffic from social networks, more than it gets from search engines.”

Spot On!
Is this showing a trend that people are willing to buy products in social networks? In the UK, it sounds possible. It could be the next step. We all know that the easy purchase process is a winner – for companies and customers. Thinking of the future of social networks, companies should consider engaging with customers much more on social networks while also integrating ‘light’ e-commerce opportunities in their Facebook Fan pages or in their company profiles at XING. Or at least indicate and lead the way for customers to some good offers or marketing activities. And re-thinking efforts on big spendings for paid search is definitely something that needs to be thought about…

News Update – Best of the Day

Just good Hi5 links…

5 elements to create a successful Facebook Fan Page…

15 SEO elements companies need to win in search engine ranking fights…

50 corporate website designs that stand out from the crowd…

PS: 500 robots and 10.000 students head to Atlanta for the First National Robotics Championship….

Report: Marketers web-strategy not listening to SMB needs

The latest report from Bredin Business Information (BBI) finds that SMB’s will not become customers with the common marketing strategies: Marketers are going online while small and medium-size companies are still living the offline world of direct mail and tradeshows.

The two surveys by BBI, conducted in late January and February, combine the findings of 50 leading marketers and 741 SMBs. While marketers were asked about their outreach and research efforts for 2009, the SMBs had to give some insight about their online and offline media preferences, top business issues and brand ratings. The findings show that both sides don’t go and-in-hand to reach their targets.

The marketers world
What marketers know…
SMBs rely less on traditional marketing tactics but that’s one of the top ways they like to receive product and service information.
What marketers do…
Marketers’ spending will increase spending on every online tactic (especially microsites and resource centers, social networking and webinars) but decrease budgets in direct mail, print advertising and trade shows – only PR and telemarketing will increase.

The SMB world
What SMBs rely on offline…
– 43,6% newspaper and magazine articles
– 43,5% direct mail (including letters, postcards and catalogs)
– 32% radio/TV ads
– 27,4% phone calls
What SMBs rely on online…
– 72% online referrals (friends and peers) most popular information source on products and services
– 57% search engine marketing
– 44,5% educational websites
What SMBs favorite in social media…
– 19.7% Facebook
– 15,6% LinkedIn
– 11,3% Twitter

“Marketers are clearly reacting to the difficult economy by using offline tactics much more selectively. They are also moving online aggressively, to reach SMBs efficiently and learn how to get the most from new media opportunities. (…) However, our survey of SMBs indicates that business owners are not nearly as enthusiastic about many online formats for business purposes – such as social networking – as marketers are.” said BBI CEO Stu Richards

Spot On!
The high percentage of marketers more focused on winning new customers than keeping current ones surprises… : 48% balancing their acquisition and retention efforts, 32% concentrating more on acquisition and 20% focusing more on retention. In my experience it is easier keeping clients and trying to meet their needs. Marketers should try to face the difference between customers who really ‘live and communicate the web’, and those that don’t. Going online will be the future, sure, but step-by-step with training the customers the benefits of receiving the information online. Today in some industry sectors, marketers can still put into question the high priority of moving online (3,5 on a scale of 5) and slowing down offline tactics (2,6 on a scale of 5) if the target group is not ready for listening online.

News Update – Best of the Day

There is a lot of talk on the success of Twitter. Now, there is a psychological explanation by Kevin Maguire: From Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to ‘the hierarchy of tweets’. This is a must read…!

Although Twitter might be a web-based service, the offline-world does exist next to it… and the value in joining Tweet-ups, real face-to-face offline talks in your region, is big. Scot McKay connects the Twitter-world with the offline-world and finds some interesting strategies – some new, some old…

XING announces their new product development strategy on their blog. Jason Goldberg, the former socialmedian founder and new Chief Product Officer at XING, lays his cards open on the product development strategy 2.0 called ‘Ship It’.
1. We will launch new features on XING faster than ever before.
2. We will launch new features before they are finished. Our plan is to get new stuff out there on the site and learn from our users as to how to make them better. You tell us what you like, don’t like, and want to see improved – and then we’ll do our best to keep up with your input.
3. We will make XING more appealing and relevant to users around the world.
4. We will actively ask for your feedback and participate in a dialogue with you as to how we can improve and better meet your needs. Expect to see a whole new social-media approach to how we gather feedback. Expect to really get to know the people behind product development at XING. And, challenge us publicly to deliver what you need.

PS: Lee Byron created a map and network diagrams on the development of Facebook. Excellent work…