Biz Blog Profile Series: Dell with - Richard Binhammer AKA RichardAtDell

03/09/2008

Biz Blog Profiles is a behind the scene look at how corporations, non profits, higher education institutions and the arts are using blogs and other social media tactics to support their marketing goals.

Richardatdell About Richard Binhammer

After a career in politics and government relations in Canada, I moved to the United States to pursue a broader communications career. In the late 1990s I consulted to Dell and helped win a Silver Anvil for the company. I went on to NYC consulting in communications, winding my way back to Dell as part of the public affairs team.

Today, I am part of Dell’s Conversations, Communities and Communications team with responsibilities for listening and learning online. Basically, I listen to bloggers and engage in conversations about Dell.

If you really want to get to know me, join me on Facebook or subscribe to my blog, Around The Web With Richard at Dell, in your RSS reader.

About Dell

From my perspective, Dell is a phenomenal company and has been ever since I first met the people at Dell, Michael Dell and was a consultant to them back in the 1995 – 1998 period. 

It delivers great technology connecting people around the world.  It’s a young company, just 20 years old, so its still eager to learn.  And it does. That’s the hallmark of an interesting, growing company with growth opportunities. 

In addition, the premises underpinning the direct business model, known for efficiency and mass customization, are also fundamental to real and realized customer relationships (even with a retail component) and I believe that is still revolutionary in the marketplace…frankly contributing to some of what we do online and forging ahead. Direct To Dell Conversations With Dell

Toby/Diva Marketing: I took this from your blog - “I get to visit blogs, listen learn and converse.” For people who want to be involved with social media you might have one of the most enviable jobs on the planet. How did your job evolve?

RichardatDell: I was part of Dell’s public affairs team involved with building out our presence and involvements in communities around the world. I was then asked to go out and interact with bloggers and online, I suppose because we thought of this a community and conversations with communities. In August of 2006, my colleague John Pope and I started listening and engaging online in conversations

Toby/Diva Marketing: How involved are you really in the space?

RichardatDell: Not quite sure what you mean?  John and I visit 100s and 1000s of blogs per week, participate on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, I have a blog…all part of listening and learning from customers, helping solve technical issues and joining conversations about Dell everyday.  I spend at least 50% of my day online, conversing … good and bad

Toby/Diva Marketing: You have a halo of celebrity. Do you find people want to be your “friend” or “follower” (on Twitter) because you are Richard a very cool dude or because you are Richard from Dell? Does it matter to you?

RichardatDell: I don’t think there is a halo to what I do.  It’s what any professional communicator should do…listen and learn…then interact to listen and learn some more. And, it is not just RichardatDELL.  There is a team of us at Dell, all committed to listening and engaging in real conversations online. We believe social media really is a new frontier and that we can make an impact….we make mistakes and screw up too….so no halo…please.

At one point I always asked people on Facebook, why we should be friends, if I didn’t know them. I find that interesting and puts some rationale around “connecting”.  Im sort of out of that habit these days.

I hope people want to follow me because they think we (all of us at Dell together) are doing interesting and good work.  I also like to believe that we are also really making a huge global business human … I think that is cool.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Let’s cut to the chase .. does Dell really think that a blog and some conversation with bloggers will counter what some people have termed “Dell Hell?”

RichardatDell: Yes we do believe in the power of online conversations and communities. This is not about countering or changing some artifact or image…its about connecting with people and our customers.

Toby/Diva Marketing: On a high level, what is Dell’s social media direction?

RichardatDell: Keep going growing learning and get better. Experiment some more and keep going.

Toby/Diva Marketing: What are a few of Dell’s innovative programs?

RichardatDell: Ideastorm gets lots of attention. I think our technical support and blog outreach activity is innovative and I don’t see others doing it … but I am biased too 

Toby/Diva Marketing: In terms of departments or functions, who “owns” social media at Dell?

RichardatDell: No one “owns” social media, except I suspect the customers and communities … everyone should engage with social media as a means to connect and build lasting and valuable connections … brand loyalty and lust

Toby/Diva Marketing: Does Dell have “success measurements” in place? And if so what are those metrics that determine success?

RichardatDell: We know there are on average 4000 conversations about us everyday. We know we have seen a decline in negative commentary from nearly 50 % to around 20%. However, we are working to move from traditional measurements of awareness and share of voice to conversations, communities and connections and how those can be valued … hard work and constantly fine tuning all kinds of metrics

Toby/Diva Marketing: Are social media tactics integrated into a master marketing plan? If so how do other initiatives support  Dell’s social media programs? On the flip side - how do social media tactics support other strategies?

RichardatDell: Increasingly social media and marketing are viewed as integrated or need to be. I think is fair to say that our CMO very much sees the world that way and hence the whole move to design DaVinci. Frankly, as a communicator, after 18 months in this field, social media should be a part of any company’s public relations (two words not practice profession or pr).

Toby/Diva Marketing: Recently Target created quite a buzz when it told the world that it would not respond to “non traditional media?” How does Dell perceive bloggers in relationship to the traditional media?

RichardatDell: I don’t think we distinguish anymore between a blogger and mainstream media.

Toby/Diva Marketing: What are a few lessons learned for companies that are considering entering this space?

RichardatDell: Be honest, transparent, your self, and don’t worry about this control BS you hear about … how can participation with people who are interested in you, your products and services or business be wrong? And some people will never like you, so get over it

Toby/Diva Marketing: Where does Dell go from here in terms of continuing the innovation track it has taken in social media?

RichardatDell: Twitter, more blogs, more “interactive and social” things on dell.com … we will see where our customers want to go …

Toby/Diva Marketing: Richard Binhammer’s view on social media marketing

RichardatDell: I think I’ve said enough and would like to hear more from your readers and friends

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Comments

I have had years inside companies who spend hours rationalizing what they'd want their customers to do and say... at the end of the day, it's much better to just talk with them and ask.

Richard points us to the million dollar dilemma - why continue measuring new ways of connecting in the old metrics? And I agree, while I see social media as the domain for the whole organization, those leading more naturally may be the people involved with public relations.

Posted by: Valeria Maltoni on Mar 9, 2008 2:01:56 PM

Toby

I really enjoyed meeting you offline in Atlanta taking the virtual relationship and making it real.
Also thanks for the interview and really look forward to the comments from your freinds and readers about social media, as I noted

Posted by: RichardatDELL on Mar 9, 2008 2:02:26 PM

I think the thing I find most interesting with the Dell story is that the perceptions of what participation actually is seemed to change very genuinely after getting into social media. From not distinguishing between mass media and bloggers to responding to all blog posts without regard to technorati ranking is the essence of participation, and it means much more coming from someone on the front lines than a self-proclaimed expert.

Great piece!

Posted by: Ryan Anderson on Mar 9, 2008 3:45:57 PM

Toby: Thanks for having Richard speak and for this interview. Both RichardatDell and JohnPatDell have done great work in moving things forward in Dell's social media efforts.

One thing we've seen time and again is that there's real value for corporations to join conversations wherever they occur (and like Ryan said regardless of Technorati ranking).

Way to go, RichardatDell!

Posted by: Lionel Menchaca on Mar 10, 2008 2:04:14 AM

Great post Toby.

Dell has been very active and I think that's a great thing. They are the only company that's ever responded to one of my posts (http://tangerinetoad.blogspot.com/2007/12/dell-weighs-in.html) via Bob Pearson, and what they did was to provide me with information about the company that helped change my perception.

As bloggers we are all often hostage to our own biases and opinions and knowledge base. We don't do research. As a result, information we get from companies, if presented in a conversational and informative way, is quite useful.

Dell seems to be one of the few companies who gets this.

Posted by: Toad on Mar 11, 2008 11:56:20 AM

Toby,

Great piece. I've had the pleasure to exhange Twitters and e-mails with Richard and guest post as Dell's ReGeneration. He is noble and authentic.

Posted by: Lewis Green on Mar 12, 2008 3:07:23 PM

@Valeria - social media puts it on the line for companies who boast about how much they value the "voice of the customer" .. now there is no excuse not to listen. the challenge is to "hear" and take action.

@Ryan - could not agree with you more. recently a marketing "guru" at an F-100 company told me he felt paying attention to bloggers who were not 'influencers' (whatever that meant) was pretty much a waste of time. he so didn't 'get it.'

@Lionel - it was a pleasure spending time with RichardatDell in Atlanta. The more we talked the more it seemed to me that Dell is the "poster corp for social media marketing."

@Toad - my 2 cents .. Dell is setting the standard for not only listening but participating in conversations with customers and prospects too. toss of a pink boa to richard and bob and lionel!

@Lewis - yes sir .. richardatdell is the real thing!

Posted by: Toby on Mar 12, 2008 3:36:09 PM

Toad, appreciate the feedback and perspective...but even better is your views having experienced contact with our outreach. Great to hear it matters.

Lionel is biased! in a good way.

Lewis, thank you. noble is a bit much but I do feel and believe authenticly.

Ryan, thanks for feedback. Its true, any post is important...because they are people speaking from heart...and that is important...more than any damn media impression.

You know Ryan called me no social media zealot but a gruff opinionated and intelligent communicator....for which I have been chided, but I accept proudly :-)

Valeria, I love your writing....and its true, we do need to find new measurements. Bob (who Toad references) says we need to explore Return on Information...thats a good one!

Toby, thank you and thrilled to know you and learn from you. Thank you!

Posted by: RichardatDELL on Mar 12, 2008 8:54:04 PM

Richard:

Of course you know that we don't have a communication problem in organizations. We have an information problem : )

Toby:

Ah, listening and hearing. Music to my ears!

Posted by: Valeria Maltoni on Mar 12, 2008 9:01:20 PM

Valeria, you know I wrote on information issues on my blog too :-) we need to go to TED together

Posted by: RichardatDELL on Mar 12, 2008 9:05:49 PM

Blogs are just too important to ignore. Either in having one or in reading others. Bloggers are influencing things and failing to pay attention to the dialog and conversation is a huge mistake.

Posted by: Kelly on Mar 29, 2008 3:43:06 AM

Blogs are just too important to ignore. Either in having one or in reading others. Bloggers are influencing things and failing to pay attention to the dialog and conversation is a huge mistake.

Posted by: Kelly on Mar 29, 2008 3:44:13 AM

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