There is a debate bubbling up on this topic.  Why?  I really have no idea.

In March Dell was able to generate $1,000,000 in revenue and cultivate 100,000 followers for their @delloutlet handle.  Today they have 677,825 followers.

Here is a sample tweet:

“@Sc00ter Did you order it from the Outlet? DM me your order# and I can see if I can help.about 24 hours ago from HootSuite”

Some individuals out there are actually obtuse enough to be arguing that this is not a successful social media example but instead a successful ecommerce example.  Isn’t this a useless argument?

I see a few things in the tweet that I have posted above.  Based on the groaning in the marketplace about this We are going to diagram it just like elementary school grammar.

“@Sc00ter [This is a Name, which makes it a personalized one to one, from the brand to the user message] Did you order it from the Outlet [This is a Distribution and Logistics question designed to identify the order’s point of origin from the business enterprise]? DM me your order# [this is a Unique ID Code designed to find the order in the businesses CRM or Sales Management Software system] and I can see if I can help [This is a CRM Response with a call to action].about 24 hours ago [This is a Time Stamp] from HootSuite [This is a Method of ID and Contact from the responsible party who has taken ownership of resolving the problem]”

Well, bummer.  Since there is no viral video or game involved, of course it can’t really be social media, as the agencies and pendants define it.  I say let them argue and split hairs over the latest shiny penny tactics.  Let’s focus on the bigger prize.  Maybe the Dell/Twitter example isn’t social media but maybe it’s something better, social marketing integrated with social operations.  Maybe it is something that is meaningful and useful to all parties.  Maybe we have tapped into mechanisims to finally deliver on Pepper & Roger’s Shangri-La; One to one marketing.

As compared to this.

Skittles

Just because it isn’t sexy doesn’t mean it isn’t right.  It is.  The Dell example worked in creating awareness AND engagement AND affinity.  The Skittles example is just lame-brained.

The Dell and Twitter partnership is exactly what everyone should be point to as a best practice (not the only one but a darn good one) or at worst yet another viable and meaningful use of Twitter that doesn’t involve saving expats from a kidnapping or reporting and organizing election revolt in countries with dictatorial regimes.

So yes, it is good use of social marketing and social operations…which is what keeps brands and their operating entities (the business enterprise) in business.    Being in harmony with your customer base is a very profitable and effective method of doing business.

For many, that is still the plaything of agencies and sporadic marketing managers.  I think it is time to start understanding the difference.  If you want to continue debating the meaning of the word ‘is’ (which is in this case the debate about what is or is not social media), good luck.  The rest of us are moving on.

Steve Hershberger
Steve Hershberger