Scaling Social Media so Its Intimate and Builds Brands

Many often wonder about whether social media is scalable, especially in light of the benefits social media delivers in terms of connections between businesses and their customers. In fact, as I noted here at the Huffington Post, social media is a return to what the neighborhood restaurant or "Mom and Pop" business has always done to succeed: maintain and strengthen relationships with customers.

If you are embarking on the use of social media as a trend or because you think it is the new media platform that can replicate what you used to do it is worth remembering that even 300 million televisions in American homes can't fully bring a brand to life. If your focus is all about scale, reach, impressions and size, then you may be missing the benefits of the emerging era of real, interactive Web connections that enable businesses to have meaningful and valued relationships with its customers and other stakeholders. Proceeding down the old route may be just as likely to inflame customers as you are to induce them.

However, if you are thinking about social media from a customer centric perspective and looking at it as a means to transform your business of today with the intimacy of the Mom and Pop shop of the old days, then you may be thinking about how to also reach this state across a large scale operation. Just as a TV - or two or three - in every home doesn't guarantee brand intimacy, neither does a computer - or two or three -- in every house and all your office desks, lap, or hand for that matter.

So as long as we remember that intimacy, sincerity and customer relationships come first when we talk about social media, lets take a look at how size matters.

When the telephone was first invented and deployed, it was only for the few. Many could not imagine its use, or ubiquity - let alone business applicability, or even reliance. Today the telephone (wired and wireless) have become ubiquitous, full-featured - voice mail, conference calls, call forwarding etc - and virtually every business employee has one or two.

At Dell, we are scaling our social media capabilities across the business much like telephones became just a part of how you do business and connect with people you need to be in touch with to do a better job. Here are some of the principles we are following:

  • Listening is a critical first step for any solid relationship. Through listening, identify the topics people are talking about. Those solid listening skills are best deployed in making sure the topics of conversation across the Web are routed to the people in your organization who should be aware of them.
  • Think of the telephone operator who connected calls throughout your business or across town - before we put a phone on everyone's desk and enabled direct dialing. Those telephone operators made sure to connect the conversations on the Web to the relevant part of your business.
  • Getting plugged in and connected takes relevant customer clusters and puts them in touch with relevant parts of your business. This turns what was a massive, real-time, moving conversation, into a number of meaningful, substantive, manageable opportunities where business experts can listen learn and engage real time, bringing value and customer insight to what they do.

  • What seemed more like a party line or a bad connection becomes individually connected calls.
  • We adhere to a governance model that embeds social media across the enterprise - product and engineering teams, customer and tech support, sales, marketing, HR and more.
  • What could be intimate, but may not scale, is the operator being expected to answer everyone.
By scaling social media with these tenets in mind, we can listen and communicate through "people-to-people" interactions that are relevant and personalized. As Chris Brogan advises, "People want the warm touch" and we expect to get even better at recognizing and embracing returning visitors to, offering them personalized recommendations based on their previous behavior, connecting with them on Twitter and thanking our customers on a more consistent basis. Applying these lessons to any business or brand of any size proves intimacy has value and brings a brand to life. Social media allows companies who follow these principles to learn and engage daily to build a better, bigger business and strong relationships with customers.