Dell’s IdeaStorm: Social Media in Motion

    April 4, 2007

When most companies decide to embrace social media, they usually use it as a vehicle to market new products and services, while at the same time seeking transparency. When Dell launched its IdeaStorm website, it departed from the normal “this is what we’re doing” message that most company blogs transmit.

Dell's IdeaStorm: Social Media in Motion
Dell’s IdeaStorm: Social Media in Motion
Dell's IdeaStorm: Social Media in Motion

Instead, they asked users to answer one simple question:

What ideas do you have for new Dell products and services?

That simple request opened the floodgates, and the community responded with a zeal and passion that pleasantly surprised the brass at Dell. The idea that far and away trumped all others was the desire for Dell customers to have the option to preload Linux-based operating systems onto new machines purchased from the manufacturer.

The company then blogged about every step of the process, finally confirming that they would indeed take the advice of their customers and offer Linux as an OS option for new PC purchasers.

Here’s what Matt Cutts had to say about Dell’s strategy:

The important thing is the process. It’s a process that many groups at Google use, and that (frankly) every team at Google should consider using. I’m not advocating that you set every goal by what the outside world wants. If you do that, you’ll miss some thunderbolt-from-above ideas that only an internal team can suggest.

But for many products, paying attention to what your users are saying can really provide great feedback and ideas for how to improve, and that in turn leads to “love” and even more future feedback. In this case, I think Dell did well.

It’s good to employ a bit of reversal every once in a while. While generating buzz for products that have been developed in-house is one of the most effective uses of social media, sometimes it’s nice to give the customer the reins for a little while.