Dell makes $6.5m no strategy necessary, perhaps just a plan?

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Dell’s Manish Mentha, VP Social Media and Community, is in the news for saying just get into social media, no strategy necessary. He also said that it is “backwards thinking” to try to figure out how to use social media to further business strategy – “social media isn’t a means to further a corporation’s strategy, it’s a means to help determine it”.

I can’t disagree with the latter comment, but I’m not sure if it means no strategy necessary.

My strategy belief has taken a battering recently with even Axel Schultze http://www.customerthink.com/user/axels recently saying just get into doing something – no strategy – and adding “I can’t believe I just said that”.

Axel is promoting a way of getting started, to get out there and find out what is happening and to make yourself visible as an executive in an enterprise.

As for the Dell deal, I’m still pondering.

I presume that Mr Metha’s post was being positively provocative.

As Dell is a $60 billion corporation and surely has definite and clear strategies which run over multi-years with regular say annual review and adjustment. You don’t run $60b firms and change them like you do a corner store – do you?

Through Twitter marketing itself, Dell made over $6.5 million. The number of tweets sent out by all of Dell’s Twitter accounts were about 1.5 million and over 100 employees have been sending out tweets for the company, from what I have read elsewhere.

Firstly, 0.01% of sales, through what was essentially a direct marketing approach is hardly the basis for throwing out strategy top to bottom for global $61b firm.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for social media and a big fan of Dell and a social media practitioner. I know the benefits, and am learning more each day.

Do results and circumstances change strategy? Yes of course but they don’t push strategy from pillar to post every day as those who say that “things move to fast to have a strategy” would have you want to believe. Is there such a thing as emergent strategy? Yes of course, and I tire of people saying “Facebook doesn’t have a strategy” and doesn’t know how to earn money etc etc – of course they are smarter than us and they have an emergent strategy in place – give them credit.

Does Dell as a $60b firm have a strategy will could be called “emergent” – personally I doubt it. Let’s get back to how you “casually” engage with your own 100 people who are sending out 1.5 million tweets.

With great respect, I don’t think Mom and Pop at the corner store would have any idea of how to PLAN this even if they do understand how to build great relationships with their customers. So for me the oft-used “this is as simple as back-to-basics which Mom and Pop knew all along” doesn’t hold water.

But wait, what’s the difference between a plan and a strategy? Well actually I don’t know and it doesn’t matter. Dell thought through what they were doing, without knowing how it would work out and shape up. And as others have said Dell had cultural elements in place which underwrote expected behaviors and risk management.

On the other hand I find many companies that don’t know how to facilitate conversations, and even less about how to act upon those conversations in a consistent operational manner and in a manner consistent with the desired brand experience. Let alone for product innovation, logistics, and HR. Should these firms forever be scared off, or immobilized by over analysis or lack of strategy – certainly not. But they do need a plan. The individual executives can certainly take Axels’ advice to get going.

If I read Mr Mentha correctly, at Dell the social media experience speaks to a PART of their business strategy and is A means to help determine it, not THE means. And they have done a great job and Mr Metha has done a great job of igniting the conversation.

If it inspires more executives and businesses dip their toe in the water then all the better. It is very hard to teach a person to ride a bike if you have not ridden one yourself, and that’s what it often feels like when I am talking with execs who have an urge to get their people and company involved but are not involved in social media themselves.

So getting out there, exploring, seeing, listening, checking what competitors are doing – yes – should be more of it and do it now.

Walter Adamson @g2m
http://xeesm.com/walter

Walter Adamson
I help firms create optimal customer experiences by integrating social data, teams & processes with enterprise systems. The much vaunted 360-view of the customer can be a bottomless pit without a clear data strategy. I help you deliver a greatly improved customer experience starting with a "45-degree" view of the customer, fully utilising social data analytics. I clarify your objectives and what data you need to service them, and guide you to operationalise "social at scale" to consistently deliver valuable customer experience at every social touch point.

1 COMMENT

  1. Right – get into it [Social Media] and get a feel for it. No person on the planet can explain how a piano sounds – you got to hear it. But that doesn’t mean you can play it!!!

    I continue to say “Forget the strategy to start with” but I also advocate, once you have an idea where your customers are, what they do and say, a feel for your partners and the rest of your eco system – There are better ways then “just figure it out”.

    A company with several thousand employees can’t just say “Cool – everybody goes on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, slideshare and figure something out”. That would be what was once “Dell Hell”. I’m sure Dell learned what it takes to do it right. But they would be stupid to publicly teach their competitors.

    Axel
    http://xeesm.com/AxelS

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