Two weeks from today I’ll be at Dell’s world headquarters in Round Rock, Texas. (Disclosure: Dell is a client) Part of the reason why I’ll be there will be to moderate and help facilitate an event called CAP Days. CAP stands for Customer Advisory Panel, and on the 15th and 17th, Dell will be bringing in 30 of its most passionate customers, 15 of them on the 15th, and another 15 of them on the 17th. These are customers that are actively engaged in social media, whether it’s as bloggers, or on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or other sites. On both days, Dell will be meeting with these customers during sessions that will run throughout the day in an effort to get to know them, and learn more about their opinions of Dell.
Here’s the twist that makes this event so interesting to me; The 15 customers Dell will meet on the 15th are customers that have issues with Dell, and want to voice those issues to the company. The 15 customers Dell will meet on the 17th are evangelists of the company. So over the course of 2 days, Dell will be meeting with 30 of its most passionate customers, from both ends of the spectrum. I think this event is also an example of the next evolution of social media for companies.
Connecting with customers to improve both product and marketing development.
If you think about it, this is a natural progression of social media usage for a company. They might start out blogging, maybe using Facebook, primarily as tools to ‘get their message out’. But along the way, they begin to interact with customers, and see the value in those interactions. Then maybe they’ll start using Twitter and encourage their employees to as well. Maybe more of their employees will start blogging, or individual departments/areas of the business will.
Eventually, and simply as a byproduct of being comfortable using these tools to interact with customers, the company will want to reach out directly to their customers in an effort to better understand them. This is where I think the ‘magic’ starts to happen, because when the company starts making a sincere effort to connect with the customer via social media, they get a much better understanding of where the customer is coming from. And vice versa, the customer begins to better understand the company, which means both sides lower their ‘guard’ a bit, and more open communication is the result. The customers begin to see their actual fingerprints on the company’s marketing and communication efforts, which will make them far more effective.
I think this is a natural progression of how you’ll see companies, especially big companies such as Dell, using social media. I also think if a company can reach this point in their social media usage, that they’ll have reached the point where they can see huge improvements to their product development, and marketing efficiencies. Simply connecting with customers and communicating to them that you WANT to connect with them, will go a long way toward lowering the communication barriers between both groups.
So I’m pretty excited to be involved in CAP Days, and hope to see more examples in the coming months of companies trying to use social media to establish deeper connections with their customers. BTW if you will be in the Austin area next month, Dell will be having a tweetup/meetup on the 16th. I’ll be there, as will several members of Dell’s team that are putting CAP Days on, and hopefully some of the CAP Days participants as well. I don’t believe the location and time have been nailed down, so make sure you are following Richard, Lionel and Vance on Twitter to get the latest updates! Hope to see you there!