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Dell’s Bold New Step Into the Conversation

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Dell Inc. embraced social media in a big way with the launch of Direct2Dell, its customer focused blog. Greeted originally with catcalls by many observers, the blog—under the guidance of Lionel Menchaca and other members of Dell’s communications and customer service team—has been a cornerstone in the computer maker’s reputational turnaround success story. Direct2Dell was followed by the Dell Idea Storm, introducing elements of co-creation to the social media mix.

Now Dell takes another bold step—one sure to raise eyebrows—with the introduction just minutes ago of DellShares, a blog focused on investor relations authored by Lynn Tyson, Dell’s IR veep.

 

Dell Shares

 

Neville and I had the privilege of interviewing Tyson yesterday for a For Immediate Release interview, which is now available for your listening pleasure (in fact, it’s the post just below this one on this blog).

Few companies have employed social media for investor relations purposes, hindered mainly by qualms about onerous regulations that govern IR activities. But Dell’s experience with Direct2Dell has quieted any concerns, even among the company’s lawyers, according to Tyson, who tossed off a great quote in the interview:

People have learned that there is little downside to having conversations.

The blog was part of a broader initiative for implementing a “21st Century IR Plan,” Tyson says. The plan—and the blog—are based on two key principles. First is the democratization of information; second is the ubiquity of information. Tyson suggests that making information available on a blog where people can find it and having a conversation about that information is nothing different from her department’s normal day-to-day activities:

The ability for an investor relations department to execute this and do it well quite frankly is predicated on how well they do their jobs every day. And if there’s confidence in their ability to exercise sound situational judgement over the phone or over emails or in one-on-one meetings with investors or group meetings with investors or drafting press releases, then there should be that same level of confidence by the company in their ability to have a dialogue over the Internet.

I would cast my vote in a heartbeat for Tyson to serve as a key spokesperson for the adoption of social media in business. Her pointed statements—that fears don’t come to fruition and having a conversation online is no different than having one anywhere else (in terms of your ability to reap value and avoid problems)—stand in stark contrast to the naysayers who insist that closely controlled, one-way, top-down communication should continue to characterize corporate interaction with constituent audiences. These forces fear dire consequences of business adoption of social media. Dell has had the opposite experience, a practical, real-world case study of how engaging in conversation serves the company’s goals.

Couple this with the Northwestern Mutual case study from Forrester (in which intranet blogging boosted productivity) and other success stories. Weigh them against the few tales in which the adoption of a social media strategy has backfired on a company. It’s clear that social media will play a critical part in the fortunes of any company planning to do business in the new-media environment.

DellShares opens with an introductory welcome post. Tyson plans to coordinate posts with key investor events (earnings announcements, conference calls, and the like) and to use it to discuss issues with shareholders large and small. I’ll be watching. Hell, I may buy a few shares just so I can participate as a genuine member of the investing audience.

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