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June 23, 2008

Blog Potomac - Interview With Lionel Menchaca, Cheif Blogger and Social Media Advocate at Dell

By Li Evans

I'd been told about Lionel Menchaca of Dell by numerous people in the Social Media space.  Someone even said he was the "Rockstar" in this space.   I started looking into and reading more about Lionel and his journey with Dell as they stepped deeper and deeper into Social Media. 

At WOMMA's WOMM-U I had the opportunity to listen to Bob Pearson speak about Dell's efforts, and I had to opportunity to speak with Liana Frey about an employee's feelings about Dell's social media efforts.  Dell's taking this seriously, Dell really believes in utilizing social media to reach is customers both tech savvy and first time computer buyers.  To Dell, social media is about holding a conversation and engaging their customers, to Dell Social Media is not about links.

When I saw that Lionel Menchaca was the keynote speaker at Blog Potomac, I was really excited to actually meet him and hopefully get to talk to him at length about what Dell's doing and where they are going.  I have to say, Lionel is one of the nicest people I've ever met.  Not only that, he's passionate about social media and what Dell's doing with it. 

Thank you Lionel, for taking the time to speak with me and the SMG audience!

Full transcript after the jump....

Lionel Menchaca, Chief Blogger at Dell, Video Interview at Blog Potomac Transcript

Liana Evans:

Hi I'm Li Evans of Search Marketing Gurus and KeyRelevance.  I'm here at Blog Potomac in Falls Church and I'm here with Lionel Menchaca of Dell.  He's the Chief Blogger at Dell.  I wanted to ask him a few questions for the Search Marketing Gurus audience because he had a very interesting, which you'll hear about a little bit later.

I wanted to ask you what go Dell Blogging?

Lionel Menchaca:

Well really Li it started with us listening.  That was the first step in it for us.  We started that process in April of 2006.  That process for us was about a 4 month period.  Through that we looked at what are people saying about dell.  What are the fundamental issues they are complaining about and what are the fundamental issues we need to fix?  And we also looked at what are some other social media tools that we could use to facilitate those discussion.  For use it was pretty clear that having a blog was the best way to have an open dialogue with our customers.  So that's why we started with the blog.

Liana Evans:

OK, that's probably one of the best reasons to really get out there and listen to the conversations that are going on.

So how successful has your social media efforts been for Dell?

Lionel Menchaca:

I would say from a measurement standpoint, the thing that everybody mentions or that at least comes up in conversation is at the low point in 2006 half the commentary was negative,everything that was being said about Dell 50% was negative.  Now fast forward to today we've been tracking in the low 20's for quite awhile.  That's one of the measurement signs that things are moving in the right direction. 

Beyond that in the content perspective I have about 30 to 40 bloggers on Direct 2 Dell.  There are subject matter experts there on different areas of the business.  So, being able to recruit that many people in side of Dell to blog to an external audience was something we had to do to make it successful.  If you look at the number of properties that's the other sign that things have been successful.  We're now in 5 languages, and we have 5 additional blogs outside of direct 2 dell.  We've got internal blogs, we've got an internal version of our Idea Storm.  So all of that growth says that there is value for our employees and value for our customers.  That's what we're really concerned about is value for our customers.

Liana Evans:

That's really exciting to see that Dell is investing such much resources into this because they find it so valuable.    So with that where is Dell going in the future with social media?  More blogs, more idea storm kind of thing?

Lionel Menchaca:

Well I think what you'll see from us moving forward is that we are trying to integrate some of these things to make sense for our customers.  So if you take a look at our core audiences it's a lot of folks that are typical bloggers that are tech savvy that are engaged in social media themselves.  There's a large portion of the population that aren't engaged at all.  We want to make it easy for those people to make sense of all these things that we have.  That basically means we have to integrate all of these properties so that there's not a direct 2 dell entity and there's not an idea storm over here, and there's not a forum over here.  That confuses people.  That confuses the average user. 

The more successful we can be at integrating it and making it seamless for customers I think that's really our next goal is to reach a wider audience. And always stay focused on  looking to connect those customers with the information that is helpful to them.  That's really what our core focus is.

Liana Evans:

And then one last question.  Last month I was at WOMMA WOMM-U and Bob Pearson had talked about what Dell's doing, and I found it really interesting that he was talking what Dell was doing inside, with its employees and social media.  Can you talk a little bit about that?

Lionel Menchaca:

Yes, sure.  All of our internal stuff happened shortly after our external.  In the case of Direct 2 Dell, it launch in July 2006, we had our internal version of our blog which is called 1 Dell Way, that launched about a month and a half afterwards.  We have idea storms which is one of the properties you mentioned.  We have an internal version of that which is called employee storm.  Back to the blog side, we've got several different group blogs that are related to Dell.  There's one for all of the Americas, there's one for the Asia Pacific region, there's ones for other areas, we've got a marketing blog and all these other sub-blogs that are being grown from the 1 Dell Way Blog.

The other thing that I would say that I've seen that is a positive change is that Dell as a company just recently opened up a lot of the social media sites for all of the employees.  So Facebook was the first thing we did, it was kind of a pilot program, we started with Facebook.  Now we've opened up everything from Twitter to Gmail to yahoo mail.  All of those different sites, Flickr, Flickr's been open, Twitter's been open as well.  But literally opening all those sites for employees world wide.  Those internal debates are very similar to where the web was 10-12 years ago. Companies were talking about if we give employees internet access its going to be a productive waster and we'll have all those issues on our hands.  The same kind of issues come up. 

The fact that we were able to do that,it just happened last month that we just opened up those properties for  employees.  I think that says a lot. It says that as a culture that we are stating to shift and see, its' moving from just a few people seeing value in doing these things, to really taking hold on  a broader scale.  That's obviously what makes it work.  Both externally and internally is getting more people engaged and seeing the value in having these open and honest dialogue even when the content we're talking about is negative in nature.  I hope we can continue on that path and reach more customers and have more employees engage, we're trying to do that across the board.

Liana Evans:

Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me and the Search Marketing Gurus audience.  I'm Li Evans from Blog Potomac we'll have more interviews later.

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