Case Study: How Dell Converts Social Media Analytics
Beneﬁts into Strategic Business Advantages
Transcript of a BrieﬁngsDirect podcast on how social media can create a gold mine of
information for businesses of all sizes and how proper analytics and response can created a
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Sponsor: Dell Software
Dana Gardner: Hi, this is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and you’re
listening to BrieﬁngsDirect. Today, we present a sponsored podcast discussion on the expanding
role and heightening importance of social media data as an essential ingredient for companies to
gain strategic business advantage.
We’ll examine speciﬁcally how Dell has recognized the value of social media for more than
improved interactions and brand awareness. Dell has successfully learned from social media how
to meaningfully increase business sales and revenue.
According to Dell, the data, digital relationships, and resulting analysis inherent
in social media and social networks interaction, provide a lasting resource for
businesses and their customers. And this resource has a growing and lasting
impact on many aspects of business, from research to product management, to
CRM to helpdesk, and yes, to sales.
To learn more about how Dell has been making the most of social media for the long haul, please
join me now in welcoming Shree Dandekar, Senior Director of Business Intelligence and
Analytics at Dell Software. Welcome, Shree.
Shree Dandekar: Good Morning, Dana, thanks for having me on.
Gardner: We’re glad you’re here. Businesses seem to recognize that social media and socialmedia marketing are important, but they haven’t very easily connected the dots in how to use
social media for actual business results. What do you think has been holding them back from
realizing the importance, but not realizing the payoffs?
Dandekar: There is an interesting dynamic happening between enterprises and some of the
small businesses. But before I go there, let’s talk about the landscape in terms of the adoption of
social media by businesses overall.
It’s not that businesses don’t realize the value of social media. In fact, many businesses are
looking at simple, social media listening and monitoring tools to start their journey into social
The challenge is that when you make these investments into any kind of a listening or monitoring
capability, people tend to stop there. It takes them a while to start collecting all the data on
LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter. It takes some time for them to make some
meaningful sense out of that. That’s where the dynamic comes in when you talk
to an enterprise business. They’ve really moved on.
So, there are several stages within a social media journey, the very ﬁrst one
being listening and monitoring, where you start capturing and aggregating data.
From there, you start doing some kind of sentiment analysis. You go into some
kind of a social-media engagement, which leads to customer care. Then, you go into questions
like social return on investment (ROI) and then, try to bring in business data and mash up that
together. This is what’s known as Social CRM.
So, if you say that these are the six stages of social-media maturity model or a social-media
lifecycle, some of the enterprise businesses have really matured in the ﬁrst three or four phases,
where they have taken social media all the way to customer care. Where they are struggling now
is in implementing technologies where you can derive an actual ROI or business value from this
Listening and monitoring
Whereas, if you look at some of the small businesses or even mid-sized companies, they have
just started getting into listening and monitoring, and the reason is that there are not many tools
out there that appeal to them.
I won’t name any speciﬁcally, but you know all the big players in the social media listening
space. They tend to be expensive and require a lot of reconﬁguration and hands-on
training. The adoption of social media in the small-sized business or even midsized businesses has been slow because these guys don't want to invest in these
types of tools.
By the way, here is another big differentiator. If you look at enterprises, they don't
shy away from investing in multiple tools, and Dell is a great example. We have a Radian6
deployment, social-media engagement tools, and our own analytic tools that we build on top of
that. We tried each and every tool that's out there because we truly believe that we have to gain
meaningful insights from social media and we won't shy away from experimenting with different
Mid-sized companies don't have the budget or resources to try out different tools. They want a
single platform that can do multiple things for them – essentially a self-service enabled socialmedia intelligence platform.
If I start with listening, I just want to understand who is talking about me, who my inﬂuences are,
who are my detractors, what are my competitors talking about, and whether or not I can do a
quick sentiment analysis. That's where I want to start.
Gardner: I was very impressed to learn that Dell has been doing social media since 2006, so
going quite a ways back. How important is this to Dell as a company and how important do you
think other companies should view this? Is this sort of a one-trick pony, or is there a lasting and
expanding value to doing social media interactions analysis?
Dandekar: In addition to leadership from the top, it took a perfect storm to propel us fully into
social. In July 2006 when pictures and a report surfaced online out of Osaka, Japan of a Dell
laptop spontaneously combusting due to a battery defect (which happened to impact not just
Dell, but nearly every laptop manufacturer), it was a viral event of the sort you don’t want. But
we posted a blog titled “Flaming Notebook” and included a link to a photo showing our product
in ﬂames – which caused some to raise an eyebrow.
I will pause there for a second. How many of you would do that if something similar happened to
your business? But Michael Dell made it crystal clear: Dell was built on the value of going direct
to consumers and the blog had to communicate and live by those same values.
This is 2006, when the internet and the true value of blogging and everything was just becoming
more relevant. That was a turning point in the way we did customer care and the way we
engaged with our customers. We realized that people are not only going to call an 800 support
number, but are going to be much more vocal about it through sources like social media blogging
on Twitter and Facebook.
That's how our journey in social media began and it’s been a multi-year, multi-investment
journey. We started looking at simple listening and monitoring. We built a Social Media
Command Center, and even before that, we built communities for both our employees and our
customers to start interacting with Dell.
One of the most popular communities that we built was called Idea Storm. This was a
community in which we invited our customers to come in and share ideas product improvements
they want. This community was formed around 2007. To date, there have been close to 550
different ideas that we got from this community that have been implemented in Dell products.
Similarly, we launched Employee Storm, which was for all the employees at Dell, and the idea
was similar. If there are some things in terms of processes or products that can be changed, that
was a community for people to come in and share those ideas.
Beyond that, as I said, we built a Social Media Command Center back in 2010. And we also
stood up the Social Media and Communities University program. We started training our internal
users, our employees, to take on social media.
Dell ﬁrmly believes that you need to train employees to make them advocates for your brand
instead of shying away and saying, “You know what, I'm scared, because I don't know what this
guy is going to be saying about me in the social media sphere.”
Instead, we’re trying to educate them on what is the right channel and how to engage with
customers. That's something that Dell has developed over the last six years.
Gardner: Well, that's very interesting. You’ve taken a one-way interaction, made it two-way,
and then expanded well beyond that. How far and wide do the beneﬁts of social media go? Are
you applying this to helpdesk, research, new products, service and support, or all the above? Is
there any part of Dell that doesn't take advantage from social media?
Dandekar: No, social media has become a core part of our DNA, and it ﬁts well because of the
fact that our DNA has always been built on directly interacting with our customers. If a customer
is going to use social media as one of their primary communication channels, we really need to
embrace that channel and make sure we can communicate and talk to our customers that way.
Gardner: I also was impressed to learn that you are directly making sales through Twitter to the
tune of millions of dollars. How does that work? How do other companies learn from your
example of not only having many business beneﬁts that are so called soft beneﬁts, but direct
sales? How do you make direct sales through Twitter?
Dandekar: We've invested a lot in this space. We have a big channel through Salesforce where
we interact with all the leads that come in through Salesforce.
Taking that relationship to the next level, is there a way I can smartly link the Salesforce leads or
opportunities to someone's social proﬁle? Is there a way I can make those connections, and how
smartly can I develop some sales analytics around that? That way, I can target the right people
for the right opportunities.
That's one step that Dell has taken compared to some of our industry competitors, to be very
proactive in making that linkage. It’s not easy. It requires some investment on your part to take
that next step. That's also very close to the sixth stage that I talked about, which is social CRM.
You’ve done a good job at making sure you’re taking all the social media data, massaging it, and
deriving insight just from that. Now, how can you bring in business data, mash it up with social
data, and then create even powerful insights where you can track leads properly or generate
opportunities through Twitter, Facebook or any other social media sources?
Gardner: Shree, it seems to me that what you’re doing is not only providing value to Dell, but
there is a value to the buyer as well. I think that as a personal consumer and a business consumer
I’d like for the people that I am working with in the supply chain or in a procurement activity to
know enough about me that they can tailor the services, gain insight into what my needs are, and
therefore better serve me. Is there an added value to the customer in doing all this well?
Dandekar: Absolutely. The power of social media is real-time. Every time you get a product
from Dell and tweet about it or say you like it on Facebook, there is a way that I can, in realtime, get back to that customer and say I heard you and thanks for giving us positive or a
negative feedback on this. For me to take that and quickly change a product decision or change a
process within Dell is the key.
There are several examples. One example that comes to mind is the XPS 13 platform that we
launched. The project was called “Project Sputnik.” This was an open-source notebook that we
deployed on one of our consumer platforms XPS 13.
We heard a lot of developers saying they like Dell, but really wanted a cool, sexy notebook with
all the right developer tools deployed on that platform. So, we started this project where we
identiﬁed all the tools that would resonate with developers, packaged them together, and
deployed it on the XPS 13 platform.
From the day when we announced the platform launch, we were tracking the social media
channels to see if there was any excitement around this product.
The day we launched the product, within the ﬁrst three or four hours, we started receiving
negative feedback about the product. We were shocked and we didn’t know what was going on.
But then, through the analytics that we have developed on top of our social media infrastructure,
we were able to pinpoint that one of the product managers had mistakenly priced the notebook
higher than that of a Windows notebook. The price should not have been higher than that of a
Windows notebook, and that’s why a lot of developers were angry. They thought that we were
trying to price it higher than traditional notebooks.
We were able to pinpoint what the issue was and within 24 hours, we were able to go back to our
product and branding managers and talk to them about the pricing issue. They changed the
pricing on dell.com and we were able to post a blog on Engadget.
Then, in real time, we were able to monitor the brand metrics around the product. After that,
we saw an immediate uptick in product sentiment. So, the ability to monitor product launches in
real time and ﬁx issues in real time, related with product launches, is pretty powerful.
One traditional way you would have done that is something called Net Promoter Score (NPS).
We use NPS a lot within Dell. The issue with it is that it is survey based. You have to send out
the survey. You collect all the data. You mine through it and then you generate a score.
That entire process takes 90 to 120 days and, by the time you get it, you might have missed out
on a lot of sales. If there was a simple tweak, like pricing, that I could have done overnight, I
would have missed out on it by two months.
That’s just an example, where if I had waited for NPS to tell me that pricing was wrong, I would
have never reacted in real time and I would have lost my reputation on that particular product.
Gardner: It’s pretty important nowadays to have that short latency between reacting to a market
and satisfying a market. We don’t have the luxury of going a year or two. That’s super important
Shree, as you mentioned, Dell has doing this now for quite a few years. What are they getting for
their effort? How extensive is your listening and analysis from social media?
Dandekar: Just to cite some quick stats, Dell has more than 21 million social connections
through fans on Facebook, followers on Twitter, Dell community members, and more across the
We talked about customer care and the engagement centers, and I talked about those six stages of
the social media journey. Based on the Social Media Command Center that we have deployed
within Dell, we also have a social outreach services team that responds to an average of 3,500
posts a week in 14 languages and we have an over 97 percent resolution rate.
We talked about Idea Storm and I had talked about the number of ideas that have been generated
out of that. Again, that’s close to 550 plus ideas to date.
Then, we talked about the Social Media and Communities University. That’s an education
program that we have put in place, and to date, we have close to 17,000 plus team members who
have completed the social media training certiﬁcation through that program.
By the way, that’s the same module that we have started deploying through our social media
professional services offering, where we’ve gone in and instituted the Social Media and
Communities University program for our customers as well.
We have had a high success rate just ﬁnding some of the customers that have beneﬁted through
our social media professional services team and also deploying Social Media Command Center.
Red Cross is a great example where we have gone and deployed the Social Media Command
Center for them to be much more proactive in responding to people during the times of
Clemson University is another example, where we've gone and deployed a Social Media
Command Center for them that’s used for alternate academic research methods and innovative
Gardner: Tell me a little bit about what SNAP is, sentiment times, gravity times, inﬂuence
times, credibility times, relevance. It seems like we are taking some of this ability to peer into
market and go even deeper than just input and data, we are really getting into what's motivating
people and how that works in a complex ecosystem?
Dandekar: SNAP stands for Social Net Advocacy Pulse. This was a product that we developed
in-house. As I said, we have been early users of listening and monitoring platforms and we have
deployed Social Media Command Centers within Dell.
The challenge, as we kept using some of these tools, was that we realized that the sentiment
accuracy was really bad. Most of the times when you take a quote and you run it through one of
the sentiment analyzers, it pretty much comes back saying it's neutral, when there’s actually a lot
of rich context that’s hidden in the quote that was never even looked at.
The other thing was that we were tracking a lot of metrics around graphs and charts and reports,
which was important, but we kind of lost the ability to derive actual meaningful insights from
that data. We were just getting bogged down by generating these dashboards for senior execs
without making a linkage on why something happened and what were some of the key insights
that could have been derived from this particular event.
None of these tools is easy to use. Every time I have to generate a report or do something from
one of these listening platforms, it requires some amount of training. There is an expectation that
the person who is going to do that has been using this tool for some time. It takes a long time to
get to that ease of use ability for anybody to go in and look at all these social conversations and
quickly pinpoint to an issue.
Those are some of the pain points that we realized. We asked, “Is there a way we can change this
so we can start deriving meaningful insights? We don’t have to look at each and every quote and
say it's a neutral sentiment. We can actually start deriving some meaningful contact out of these
Here is an example. A customer purchased a drive to upgrade a dead drive from a Dell Mini 9
system, which originally came with an 8 GB PCI solid state drive. He took the 16 GB drive and
replaced the 8 GB drive that was dead. The BIOS on the system instantly recognized it and
booted it just ﬁne. That’s the quote that we got from one of the customer’s feedback.
If I had run that quote through one of the regular sentiment analyzing solutions, it would have
pretty much said it's neutral, because there was really nothing much that it could get from that it.
But if you stop for a second and read through that quote, you realize that, there are a couple of
important distinct clauses that can be separated out.
One thing is that he’s talking about a hard drive in the ﬁrst line. Then, he’s talking about the Dell
Mini 9 platform, and then he’s talking about a good experience he had with swapping the hard
drive and that the BIOS was able to quickly recognize the drive. That’s a positive sentiment.
Instead of looking at the entire statement and assigning a neutral rating to it, if I can chop it down
into meaningful clauses, then I can go back to customer care or my product manager and say,
“Out of this, I was able to assign an intensity to the sentiment analysis score.” That makes it even
more meaningful to understand what the quote was.
It's not going to be just a neutral or it's not going to be a positive or negative every time you run
it through a sentiment analysis engine. That’s just one ﬂavor.
You asked about sentiment gravity. That’s just one step in the right direction, where you take
sentiment and assign a degree to it. Is it -2, -5, +5, or +10? The ability to add that extra color is
something that we wanted to do on top of our sentiment analysis.
Beyond that, what if I could add where the conversation took place. Did it take place on Wall
Street Journal or Forbes, versus someone’s personal blog, and then assign it an intensity based on
where the conversation happened.
The fourth area that we wanted to add to that was author credibility. Who talked about it? Was it
a person who is a named reputed person in that area or was it an angry off customer who just had
a bad experience. Based on that, I can rate and rank it based on author credibility.
The ﬁfth one we added was relevance. When did this event actually happen? If this event
happened a year or two back, or even six months back, and someone just wants to cite it as an
example, then, I really don’t want to give it that high rating. I might change the sentiment to
reﬂect that it's not that relevant based on today’s conversations.
If I take some of these attributes, sentiment, degree of sentiment, where the conversation
happened, who talked about it and when and why did that conversation happen and then convert
that into a sentiment score, that’s now a very powerful mechanism for me to calculate sentiment
on all these conversations that are happening.
That gives me meaningful insights in terms of context. I can really mine that data to understand
how I can take that and derive meaningful insights out of that. That’s what SNAP does, not just
score a particular quote by pure sentiment, but add these other ﬂavors on top of that to make it
much more meaningful.
Make it usable
Gardner: Yes. So the information is out there, people are telling you what they want, they’re
interacting in such a way that you can gain very valuable insights, if you take the proper steps to
get that information and make it usable in your own organization.
Dandekar: That’s right.
Gardner: I’m going to put you on this spot here, Shree, because you mentioned earlier that
small to medium-sized businesses are looking for a one-stop shop to do this.
You’ve already demonstrated what Dell is doing internally. Have you considered productizing
this and perhaps creating a surface for the smaller companies that want to do this sort of social
analysis and help them along the way?
Dandekar: We’re still working through those details and ﬁguring out as we always do the best
ways to bring solutions to market, but for us, mid-market is our forte. That’s an area where Dell
has really excelled. For us to be in the forefront of enterprise social media is great, but we also
want to make sure we’re bringing tools to market to service those mid-market companies as well.
By the way, we have stood up several solutions for our customers. One of them is the Social
Media Command Center. We’ve also stood up social media professional services and we offer
consulting services even to small and mid-sized companies on how to mature in a social media
maturity cycle. We are also looking at bringing SNAP to market. But if you’re talking about
speciﬁc software solutions, that’s an area that we’re certainly looking into, and I would just say,
Gardner: We’ll certainly look for more information along those lines. It's something that makes
a lot of sense to me from my vantage point. Looking to the future, how will social become even
It seems to me that people are increasing the types of activities they do on their mobile devices
that includes work and home or personal use and a combination of them, simultaneous perhaps.
They look to more cloud models for how they access services, even hybrid clouds. It’s stretching
across your company’s on premises activities and more public cloud or managed service provider
We expect more machine-to-machine data and activities to become relevant. Social becomes
really more of a ﬁre hose of data from devices, location, cloud, and an ever-broadening variety of
devices. Maybe the word social is outdated. Maybe we’re just talking about data in general.
How do you see the future shaping up, and how do we consider managing the scale of what we
should expect as this ﬁre hose grows in size and in importance?
Embarking on the journey
Dandekar: This is a great question and I like the way you went on to say that we shouldn’t
worry about the word social. We should worry about the plethora of sources that are generating
data. It can be Facebook, LinkedIn, or a machine sensor, and this ﬁts into the bigger picture of
what's going to be your business analytics strategy going forward.
Since we’re talking about this in the context of social, a lot of companies that we talk to -- it can
be an enterprise size company or a mid-market size company -- most of the time, what we end up
seeing is that people want to do social media analytics or they want to invest in the social media
space. Some of their competitors are doing that, and they really don’t know what to expect when
they embark on this journey.
A lot of companies have already gone through that transformation, but many companies are still
stuck in asking “Why do I need to adopt social media data as part of my enterprise data
Once you cross that chasm, that’s where you actually start getting into some meaningful data
analytics. It's going to take a couple of years for most of the businesses to realize that and start
making their investments in the right direction.
But coming back to your question on what's the bigger picture, I think it’s business analytics. The
moment you bring in social media data, device data, the logs, sources like Salesforce, NetSuite,
all this data together now presents the uniﬁed picture using all the datasets that were out there.
And these datasets can also be datasets like something from Dun and Bradstreet, which has a
bunch of data on leads or sales, mixing that data with something like Salesforce data and then
bringing in social media data. If I can take those three datasets and convert that into a powerful
sales analytics dashboard, I think that’s the nirvana of business analytics. We’re not there yet, but
I do feel a lot of industry momentum going in that direction.
Gardner: I agree that that’s the end game and we’re only a few innings in, but it's very
impressive and an exciting time to be looking out to that.
I'm afraid we’ll have to leave it there. You've been listening to a sponsored BrieﬁngsDirect
Podcast discussion on how social media data has emerged as an essential ingredient and how
companies gain strategic business advantage.
And we've seen how Dell has been making the most of social media for the long haul by
positively impacting many aspects of it's business and we've also heard that getting and handle in
managing the ﬂow of social media puts organizations, whether they are small or medium size
businesses or large enterprises, in a position to better manage all kinds of data as that data
becomes more available.
So I would like to offer a big thank you to our guest Shree Dandekar, Senior Director of BI and
Analytics at Dell Software.
Dandekar: Thanks, Dana.
Gardner: And of course a big thank you to our audience for joining this insightful discussion.
This is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. Thanks again, for listening and
don’t forget to come back next time.
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Sponsor: Dell Software
Transcript of a BrieﬁngsDirect podcast on how social media can create a gold mine of
information for businesses of all sizes and how proper analytics and response can created a
competitive advantage. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2014. All rights reserved.
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