Dell’s Blog Campaign Clicks In

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BusinessWeek’s recent cover story on blogs, “Beyond Blogs: Three years ago our cover story showcased the phenomenon. A lot has changed since then,”did a good job updating general business readers on the state of blogs — but it missed an important issue for companies, especially those in the B2B space: The metrics by which to judge the success of corporate blogs. Is there an ROI for blogging? Can it lead to new business and stronger client relationships?

For B2Bs, I’m not so sure. I will be exploring blogging campaigns over the next few days.

But for B2Cs, I think the answer is definitely yes.

Check out Ben Worthen’s the article in Wall St. Journal, Dell, by Going Click for Click With Web Posters, Ensured Bloggers Saw Its New Red Mini Laptop,”in which he reports:

“Dell Inc. hit a viral-PR home run last week when photos of a not-yet-released computer — a candy-red miniature laptop — swept across the Internet, creating excitement in advance of the release.

“The buzz wasn’t an accident: It was the payoff from a year-long effort by Dell to engage more directly with bloggers and others who write about the company online.”

Worthen’s article provides an overview of Dell’s blogging campaign: “Today, it’s nearly impossible to find a story or blog entry about Dell that isn’t accompanied by a comment from the company. Dell left a comment in response to a recent post on WSJ.com’s Business Technology Blog about the personal-computer maker’s plan to offer premium customer service. Another Dell correspondent wrote an entry about the post on the company’s blog.”

That’s a very intense, time intensive program, known as online engagement — and it must be done transparently, letting people know that the postings are part of a corporate initiative, and entails understanding the tone and subtle rules for each blog, forum, etc. Get the tone or other variables wrong, and the company can be accused of “astroturfing, ” a term for artificial grassroots programs. (For more on astroturfing, check out the Wikipedia entry. While I still don’t like aspects of Wikipedia’s culture, and believe more strongly than ever that it needs a massive copyediting makeover, it is a decent source — as long as you look at it skeptically. My posts from Aug. 2007: Yet more about Wikipedia…, More advice on Wikipedia, and Some things to know about Wikipedia.)

Dell’s initiative appears to be working because it was willing to invest the time and resources. Worthen reports, after all, that the campaign took more than a year. What’s interesting is that Dell can point to success by pointing out that whenever someone blogs about Dell, whether it’s positive or negative, there’s a corporate comment in response. I would be very interested if the company could discuss the ROI for its campaign or to other metrics to demonstrate its success. In other words, can Dell demonstrate the value of its blogging outreach in terms of sales, visibility, new business/lead generation, customer retention, etc.?

It will be interesting to see if Dell responds to this post, by the way.

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