Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Company Blog Checkup: Dell

There might not be a more embattled blogging company than Dell. A former policy of not replying to bloggers helped set off Dell Hell, which the company will be feeling the Google affects of for a very long time. Dell launched its blog One2One almost exactly a year ago, and has since renamed it 'Direct2Dell'. The blog met with mixed results on launch, but how does it look now?

Let's start with the content. Without looking at the blog, you might expect that the type of content you'd want to see on a Dell blog would be a good mix of discussion about Dell's products, the technology behind them and the industry in general. And some discussion of the company itself, for example how it deals with customer service issues, and perhaps some time spent on discussing the company's views on the environmental issues associated with its products.

From a content standpoint, Direct2Dell does a decent job. There's discussion of Dell's offerings, product distribution, and some industry news. It doesn't go overboard with self-promotion, although there's no shortage of it either. But I think there's an incredible opportunity to improve the blog's content that Dell is completely missing, and it's right under their noses.

Earlier this year, Dell launched an interesting site called IdeaStorm. The site calls on visitors to submit posts on services or products that they would like to see the company offer, or ways to improvement Dell's existing products and services. Visitors can then vote each idea up or down in a format very similar to Digg. It's a wonderful way to give Dell's customers a feedback mechanism.

But instead of just linking to IdeaStorm on Direct2Dell's sidebar, why not take some of the more popular IdeaStorm entries submitted by its community, and publish them on Direct2Dell? This would accomplish two very important things for Dell:

1 - It makes Direct2Dell's content more interesting to the blog's readers, because it's content that's created by its readers.

2 - It shows that Dell wants to give their customers a sense of ownership in the blog. That's a great way to help grow readership and enthusiasm.

If I were Dell, I'd do this ASAP. Maybe set aside a day each week for entries from IdeaStorm. This could also possibly lead to Dell eventually inviting some of the IdeaStorm contributors to become full-time writers for the Direct2Dell blog.

The sidebar features collapsible menus for the usual suspects; categories, most comments, subscribe, etc. They also include an area to suggest a topic for the blog, which is a great idea. But Dell also has a menu for a blogroll, that actually includes several blogs and sites. The one thing I noticed was that they don't link to BuzzMachine. If I were Dell, I'd swallow my pride and add Jarvis to the list. Otherwise, Direct2Dell's blogroll is better than most other company blogs. One addition to the sidebar I would suggest would be an About section, with headshots and links to bios for all the writers.

Dell appears to be doing a decent job of replying to reader's comments. I did notice a few times that it seemed that one of the writers would reply to the first comment, then no more, or there were a couple of posts that had several replies with none from anyone with Dell. Not huge offenses, but something to keep an eye on.

Overall, Direct2Dell is a fairly solid blog. There's no glaring weaknesses, but on the flipside, there's no areas where it truly excels. If anything, it seems that the blog needs more personality, and perhaps more visibility from the blog's writers. Both literally by including pictures on the sidebar, and with a bit more interaction in the comments. And again, I'd definitely find a way to let members of the IdeaStorm community have input into the blog's content.

And now for the scoring:

Content: 30 (Out of a possible 35) - Good mix of product information, as well as customer service concerns, and even a dash of sustainability and social media talk, along with the occasional technology post. Good mix that seems to be resonating with Direct2Dell's readers.

Comments: 25 (Out of a possible 35) - Most posts have comments, but the writers aren't very active in replying on the blog. However, since many readers are leaving comments about technical or customer service issues, Dell may be contacting them directly via email.

Posting Schedule: 14 (Out of a possible 15) - Blog has right at a post a day, with an occasional gap.

Sidebars: 10 (Out of a possible 15) - Has most of the right elements, but it's hard to find some, such as a great blogroll that's collapsed, and having bios/pics of all the writers, but making you click through to find them.

Total Score: 79 (Out of a possible 100)

If anyone from Dell wants to discuss this checkup, feel free to either leave a comment here, or email me. And the keep in mind that the interaction bar has been set pretty high after the first two Company Blog Checkup entries. Representatives from both Kodak and HomeGoods' blogs were kind enough to participate in the discussion here, as well as contact me via email.

If you're a company that would like to hire me to do an extensive checkup of your blog, you can click here for more information on my blog and social media consulting services.

UPDATE: Richard at Dell adds in the comments: "...All these various ideas are under consideration both in terms of where we are going, staff to accomplish and that kind of thing. What has been raised here is similar to one of the several ideas, and because we are listening to what people have to tell us, your ideas are being added to the mix."

Nother UPDATE: Just talked to John at Dell and he let me know that BuzzMachine has just been added to Direct2Dell's blogroll.

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Nudge Marketing said...

I really like the idea of putting some of the IdeaStorm content on their blog. If it was me, and Dell had taken one of my posts, put it up on the main blog and praised what I had to offer there is no doubt that I would look to repeat that praise and thus spend a bit of extra time writing stuff for IdeaStorm (and who knows, it might even prompt me to buy a Dell PC :) )

Anonymous said...

Hey Mack - I agree that it would be nice to see a bit more interaction between IdeaStorm and Direct2Dell but I think it's also important that we applaud the long way DELL has travelled between the start of DELL Hell and today. Especially when I saw DELL respond on a query on Philippe's blog about HP that got me thinking how big of a shift they made recently.

Here's the link to Philippe's article (note the comment):

Anonymous said...

Hi Mack,

I really like your blog checkup initiative. It would be nice if you could tag this series.

I must say that I was amazed by Dell's responsiveness.

Mack Collier said...

Nudge I agree, adding IdeaStorm content to Direct2Dell is a homerun waiting to happen for Dell. It gives Dell's customers a sense of ownership in the blog, and makes the content far more relevant to them.

Kris it's funny, I was reading some blog posts from last year when One2One launched, and I had a long disagreement with BL Ochman on Daily Fix about what was Dell's new blog at the time. She said the move wasn't good enough at launch, I said let's give the company time to get their feet wet.

But at the same time, it's now a year later, and while the blog as a whole is a decent effort, there's no truly outstanding areas IMO. For example, with Kodak, they totally nailed the content. OpenHouse's writers are all over comments. Dell does adequate jobs in both areas.

Now I will say that Dell is the only company that has so far linked to bloggers and non-comapany sites on their sidebar, they do deserve props for that.

BTW I've already seen where I've gotten a few visitors from this morning. It took both Kodak and HomeGoods a couple of days to catch my posts I left here about their blog. So Dell appears to be keeping a closer eye on the blogosphere, let's see if they are also willing to contribute feedback, as Kodak and HomeGoods were so great about doing.

Philippe I'll tag all 3 posts right now, thanks for reminding me.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mack
Lionel as "blogmaster" of direct2dell may have specific comments and "the administrator" as she is know and affectionally called in discussions at Ideastorm may also have specifics. In the meantime, I want you to know that we read this idea and the conversation. There are some good points here. At Dell we have a handful (at least) of additional initiatives related to social networks, our blog, studiodell, Ideastorm and generally getting more engaged with conversations with customers. All these various ideas are under consideration both in terms of where we are going, staff to accomplish and that kind of thing. What has been raised here is similar to one of the several ideas, and because we are listening to what people have to tell us, your ideas are being added to the mix.

Mack Collier said...

Richard thanks for stopping by and adding your perspective. As I said earlier, I can tell from just my traffic reports since leaving this post that several visitors have arrived from, and from monitoring Technorati to see what is being posted about Direct2Dell.

A very good sign, and I am honestly surprised that every company featured so far has been so good about not only monitoring feedback in the blogosphere, but responding here as well.

JPope said...

Hi Mack,

To follow up on the comment from my colleague Richard, the Dell digital media team would be delighted to brainstorm with you if you have the time. The deeper we get into this new world of ours the more we know we have to learn. I'll shoot you an e-mail and hopefully we can figure out something mutually convenient.

J.D. said...


Remember how when we both started blogging, you said you hoped by blogging to nab yourself a job? Well, as they say down south, ya mighta just done did it.