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Social Media Thoughts from Manish…

Some good thoughts from Manish

A lot of smart people have made a lot of good predictions about what’s coming in social media in 2010. When you put their thoughts together, it’s clear that social media has finally transformed from a frustrating mystery to an essential tool that can and should shape every company’s business from now on. At Dell, we’re paying particular attention to what leaders in the space are saying about three themes: maturation, measurement, and sharing. And we have a few ideas of our own.

Social media: maturing…or mature?

There’s a real consensus that social media is normalizing. As Charlene Li says, "Social media in 2010 will cease being the shiny new object and instead become part of the everyday lexicon of business. The technology will begin to fade into the background so that people can focus on the relationships that are created because of the technologies, not the technologies themselves." Seth Godin, Brian Solis and Guy Kawasaki add that executives who fail to make Social Media Optimization (SMO) as a formalized program are making a game-changing error. I more than agree; in fact, I think we might have said that at the beginning of 2009.

Shel Israel takes this conclusion a step further, predicting that the coming era will be "about as tumultuous as watching paint dry and as significant as the adoption of the automobile." He wants to know what he gets to write about next. Shel, I agree on both counts, but I also think you’ll have plenty to write about in the space. Adoption is here, but we’re not done innovating. Just one example is social commerce. People are browsing retail sites while soliciting shopping advice from friends on Facebook all at the same time. They’re doing it right now with Dell products. The question is what will we develop in 2010 to make this easier and more enjoyable for people?

How do you measure the value of social media?

Robert Scoble and Josh Bernoff, along with a chorus of other leaders, observe rightly that the old metrics don’t apply here. Scoble thinks 2010 is the year that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) isn’t important anymore, and Bernoff says that "marketers will focus less on fuzzy social media metrics and more on real marketing metrics."

Clearly we need a whole new way of evaluating ROI, and I think there are companies who will break through on measurement this year. The solution will tell companies when the complaint of a few key customers carries more weight than criticisms from the broader audience. Last year we were talking about social media allowing us to listen in. This year we need to know the value of what we’re hearing and who we’re hearing it from–not just the volume.

What exactly are you offering customers to share with each other?

As Valeria Maltoni suggests, "Regardless of the industry or company you’re in, you may start thinking about your service as content." David Armano breaks down the progression by pointing out that sharing no longer means e-mail–it involves people posting content on their networks. Brian Solis explains what this means, and why companies that fail to confront the shift will be left behind. "Businesses must also become media properties. Creating rich, informative, creative, and engaging content is critical for 2010 and along with SMO, must be budgeted in terms of time, money, and resources for the New Year."

As for Dell, we’re going to continue to focus on scaling support of social media initiatives within the Dell business units this year, but we’re also planning to roll up our sleeves and innovate a bit too. Join us–let’s explore the land of ecommerce–social-media style–together as an industry. Social media’s stature comes from the people. The innovation will come from all of us.

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