Dell disbands its Social Media team

Dell Social Listening Command CenterIt’s been almost 8 years since Dell endured Dell hell, a very public attack by Jeff Jarvis who was having issues with his brand new Dell laptop.  This one incident caused Dell to take note of this new medium called social media.  Until today, Dell was one of the poster children of companies that ‘got’ social media; heck, they even built one of the first social media command centers. It is no more however.  According to the words of Michael Dell on a front-page interview on the Wall Street Journal today:

“We have been investing in social media for almost eight years.  It is now time for us to disband all our social media teams and fully integrate them within our business units”.


OK, Mr. Dell actually made no such statement today.  In honor of April Fools’ Day, I wrote this post hoping that the many executives that believe in social business take note.  In my opinion, and as I have already mentioned many times before, there is no such thing as social business, it’s just business.

Social media has long been the shiny new toy and it’s about time we all took a hard look at how we organize ourselves.  Social media is just another channel just like email, your corporate website and your call center.  While consumers’ expectations about how they expect to be treated when they interact with you on social media are different, it is just another channel (oh, and by-the-way, social media is also changing our expectations about all our interactions with the companies we do business with).

  • We have seen this movie before

Is this really the first time we have seen such a major disruption in the recent past? No, we are not talking about marketplaces in medieval villages. How many of us remember disruptive concepts such as Business Process Re-engineering (1990), the emergence of CRM (1993), or even web 1.0 (1994)? Each of these movements shared this one core characteristic: break down the silos in our companies so we can provide a superior customer service and experience. While we can all argue whether this promise is fulfilled, can anyone argue whether the underlying promise of social media is that new?

  • It still is about the customer experience

Today’s empowered customer has very different expectations of their brands. Not only do they expect a very different interaction in social media, they also expect the same experience in all their touch-points with us. What is the value of having a very strong presence in social media, when your marketing, sales and customer service teams are disconnected? Is it really acceptable for your call center agent to not be able to solve a customer problem, because they are in ‘presales’ and not ‘customer service’? I think not.

  • There is no social business

My view is that social media is a means to an end rather than an end in itself. Success in social business is when our companies no longer talk about social media as this is weaved in our corporate DNA. Today’s leaders are born social. Just look at Zappos, the leading online shoes and clothing retailer. Most social media gurus will tell you that Zappos is the ‘poster child’ of social today, but their tag line simply states ‘Customer Service Isn’t Just A Department!’ Most importantly, this is not just a tag line, but rather what Zappos stands truly stands for. I challenge you to find one unhappy Zappos customer! Now, for most us this will be a multi-year journey, but my belief is the sooner we begin to think about social media this way, the shorter our journey will be.

What do you think?  Is it not about time we really started to think about social business in a different light?  As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome.

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