A few readers have asked I comment on Dell's new One2One blog. My opinion reflects my personal journey on blogging...
I started a personal marketing blog in September 2003, inspired by John Porcaro from Microsoft (Note: I left Dell in January of this year). I didn't tell anyone at Dell because there was no reason to -- it wasn't about Dell. But I didn't expect it to take over two years for anyone inside of Dell to find it (and it was Developers who first found it, not Dell marketers). All the while I was getting good traffic, links and kudos other bloggers and marketers.
I didn't really know what I was doing in 2003, but over the years I learned a lot and connected with great people I never would've met otherwise. There are several reasons I launched a blog -- one of the most important reasons was that I sensed this 'something' was happening, and I wanted to learn by doing.
In fact, blogging contributed to my conclusion that marketing is changing. It gave me reason to lift my head up and see what was going on, and participate. I realized that today customers know more than the company, they believe marketing messages less, and are more in control in an economy with a lot of product and channel choices. So, great products and word of mouth rule. So what does the marketing profession look like 5 years from now!?
I think Blogs are one visible manifestation of this tipping poing. I left Dell in January to help launch Bazaarvoice to focus my journey to learn and master the changing role of marketing. Transparency, authenticity, credibility, relevancy are difficult concepts to put into operational practice, and this way of thinking is new to corporations (although shouldn't be new if more were acting on Cluetrain Manifesto in 1999).
How does this relate to Dell's blog? Because the outcome of my personal journey from starting a blog may be similar to outcome for a corporation. Can a corporate blog help a that corporation learn, internalize and evolve a culture to adapt to this new "paradigm"? Ask Scoble.
So, as for my feedback...
My father is an executive communication coach and I've learned his philosophy of giving balanced 3x3 feedback: three positives and three areas for improvement. I could always say more (as some already have)...but less is more, so here is my 3x3 on Dell's blog...
- They launched it. It's a move in the right direction. (although they've had a Linux blog for years, I don't think it got much attention). Given the visibility of this, there's no turning back. It's a seed that may blossom -- and I mean internally. It will create a stir, and that's good. Just having critics comment on the blog is a great thing. Since Dell now has a blog, they have to respond and participate (or at least should).
- Real managers and execs are writing. For example, Manish Mehta is the guy managing global Dell.com initiatives. He's not a spokesperson. Question is, how much time will they spend on this and will they converse, participate, react and evolve?
- It has a simple design and key blog features. Except for the stoic header, the design and layout is simple and usable and attractive. Comments are open, RSS feeds present, blogroll, etc. More important than the design point here is that it shows people who are paying attention to how to do it right in phase 1. And mark my words, this is phase 1 -- anything Dell does has to either be optimized or orphaned/closed. Per my point above, they can't back away from this now. If they started with attention to the design and features, it's an indication they will get better (don't 'force' the blogroll though...is Dell Techcrunch friendly?).
Room for improvement
- Don't dip the toe on this one. This blog would pass several years ago as a start. Unfortunately the late timing raises the bar for them. . So, being late, they could go 'bigger'. Dont' consolidate to one blog, and if you do, put a Dell personality behind it (not necessarily Michael). Then let a thousands flowers bloom via employees. Microsoft, Sun and others have hundreds of bloggers. Why can't Dell?
- Open up more, listen more, converse more. So far the blog entries are on Dell's products, web site, etc. Except for the Laura Bosworth's latest post -- great!
- The name for the blog is 'corporatish' and is a url they don't own (and wouldn't want to!)
I know there's a lot of 'constructive criticism' about this blog. But if you look at this from a longer term or higher level perspective, this is a move in the right direction. The alternative is they don't participate.