This is the 5th and final post from the Dell B2B Social Media Huddle held at Dell’s UK Headquarters on 9th December 2009. For previous posts, read: Part 4 – Case Studies, Part 3 – The Business Case, Part 2 – Community Matters, Part 1 – Social Media Trends.

Roundtable discussion – Integrating Social Media

The roundtable discussions were held under the Chatham House Rule meaning no names can be quoted and I’ll focus on my own opinions.

The topic of discussion was asking why businesses are so reluctant to integrate social media here in the UK, given the financial cost is so low. Virtually all case studies of note are coming from the US. What can be done to change the situation?

One argument put forward was that time was an issue – social media is a slow implementation, it takes time and effort before you see results, and those results are hard to quantify up front. I disagreed with this position. Businesses have no problem investing in lengthy IT projects with questionable benefits in the short, mid or long term, when they are required to.

The challenge for social media is no different to the challenge knowledge-based systems have always faced in business – competing priorities. Back at the beginning of this decade, portals and collaborative workspaces were the trends. They came up against Sarbanes-Oxley and other regulatory legislation. Lack of compliance could lead to a jail term for the chief executives. Lack of a portal…? No contest.

The case studies in the UK will almost certainly come from organisations with someone in a sufficient position of power who finds the time to just get on with it regardless of what the outcomes might be. If they are successful other organisations will use them as a best practice thanks to the hindsight bias, our tendency to look back at events and view them as more predictable than they actually were. One thing is for certain – those who don’t wait will reap the most rewards. That’s why they become the best practices and not those who follow…

There was some debate about what sorts of businesses are most likely to benefit from social media, and what industries are less likely to be affected. There was no clear cut answer. A local builder might wonder what the fuss is all about. Yet his competitor might already have a Facebook Fan page that amplifies local word of mouth. Back to a previous quote from the day:

“10 years ago, few businesses thought having a web site mattered…”

The repeating tips throughout the day:

  1. If your customers, prospects or competitors are using social media, can you afford to ignore it? (And keep asking until the inevitable time comes when the answer is no…)
  2. You don’t need a significant budget to introduce social media – use whatever tools are currently available, they will change again within 12 months
  3. You do need to give your people the time to contribute on a regular basis – compare it to the sales cycle
  4. Set very low expectations, leave the high targets for projects with high budgets
  5. Be careful what you measure – number of followers does not necessarily correlate to number of new customers…
  6. Always be learning – your strategy and approach will evolve as you discover which elements of social media are most appropriate for your organisation
  7. Don’t plan much (see 6.), spend the time training people instead. Put guidelines in place And then just do it!

Finally, to give one example of a company that has earned a significant chunk of revenue thanks to social media, a hat tip to the host of the day, Dell – $6.5 million in revenue and counting

To wrap up what was an excellent day, here is the flyer for the event including biographies of most of the speakers during the day. A big thanks to Kerry Bridges and Nevill Hobson for organising. It’s not many events that justify a series of 5 blog posts to cover a day of conversation (and the posts barely scratched the surface).


Other blog posts covering the event (if you spot others, please add links to them in the comments and I’ll update the list):

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