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Dell is one of those companies that has gotten a lot of attention as an early adopter on Twitter. But getting into a new medium early isn't the same as getting the most out of it. Sometime last year, the company realized it had over 20 Twitter accounts. Not all of them were effective.

Speaking at TWTRCON in New York this week, Dell's Stefanie Nelson explained how the company assessed the ROI of its social media efforts and streamlined its productivity in the space.

Dell initially got on Twitter in 2007. Its efforts in the space have been well documented. Dell notably made millions in sales attributed to Twitter last year

But that doesn't mean the company's social strategy isn't a work in progress. As Nelson explained, in 2007 Twitter "was the wild west for us." Many different groups in the company were using Twitter to meet their own objectives. Today the company has a more organized structure. They did that by looking at existing feeds and analyzing what was successful and why.

In regards to sales, the accounts that posted coupons and product info tended to do better than others. And while Twitter has become inundated with companies searching for their brand terms and responding blindly to any and all tweets, Dell has found success responding to comments on Twitter. As much as the company was listening to consumers on Twitter, they started paying more attention to how successful their responses were. Says Nelson:

"Listening helped us identify gaps and find better ways of meeting customer expectations."

To streamline and improve the company's general Twitter approach, Nelson's team came up with a list of best practices. Unsurprisingly, the directive that showed up at the top was engagement. Says Nelson, "If you're engaging, you're going to be more successful."

A big part of engaging consumers comes through personalization. According to Nelson:

"When you have your picture on a page, you have personal accountability."

Nelson cites that as a huge factor in the success of particular Twitter accounts. She manages the DellOutlet page and her personal feed is listed in the page's bio section.

Another issue was fragmentation, so the company centralized its tweeting process.

"We weren't doing it from a central location," said Nelson. "If somebody had a question, there was no obvious answer as to who could answer it. We ended up being the intermediary between the customer and the customer care department."

While Dell's employees that focused on Twitter were able to answer questions and direct people toward the right department, it wasn't the efficient use of their time or the best way to solve problems.

In May, Dell launched its DellCares Twitter stream, which is designed for the primary purpose of helping U.S. customers resolve issues. In just over a month, they've helped over 1400 people.

"Dell's evolution on Twitter is driven by the realization that social media has centralized the customer experience."

But Nelson insists Dell's strategy is a work in progress:

"We're not done. We'll continue to evolve."

Nelson argues that digital has not inherently changed the way companies interact with people who buy or are interested in their products. Furthermore, she thinks the idea that there would be a dedicated department handling social media to be a bit preposterous:

"The customer experience has never been just about the interaction with a product, or the news they read about you on a blog. It's a combination of all these interactions that create the customer experience. Yet I still see blogs and articles focused on the subject of who should own social media strategy."

At Dell, the whole company is trying to streamline the process of interacting with customers, through social media and beyond. Rather than use its social stream exclusively for sales, customer service or broadcasting specials, the company is trying to make itself more attuned to listen and react to any need that customers are trying to communicate. Says Nelson:

"It's going to be the companies that are able to roll all of these elements into their social media strategy that are going to be successful in business in general."

Meghan Keane

Published 15 June, 2010 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

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