Thursday, January 07, 2010

Some Thoughts About Dell's Sales With Twitter

You must remember how a Dell has grown while it announced it sold for $6.5 million thanks to Twitter the past year. Indeed, it was the evidence that Twitter could become a viable distribution channel, and it was worth developping a community management force to leverage this potential. Dell set 35 Twitter channels like this one, which speaks to 1.5 million followers (which is a $4.1 revenue per users). I have read this article relating this fact, and raising skepticism about it.

As with anything vaguely interesting or popular that grabs the public imagination, it's never long before Big Business is eyeing the prize and desperately trying to turn a buck. Twitter spam - should that be 'twam', or maybe 'spitter'? - is already clogging up the Internet and every corporation with a PR department worth its salt is tripping over itself to jump on the tweeting bandwagon.

A recent report on the übercapitalist website Bloomberg crows about PC box builder Dell clocking up $6.5 million worth of sales directly attributable to corporate tweets sent to the 1.5 million followers of its 35 channels. Even though that's a tiny fraction of the company's $61 billion in revenue last year, it's still a worrying development for Twitter and its waning street credibility.

The simple fact of the matter is that, once the corporate world gets its claws into the kind of social phenomenon that Twitter has rapidly become, those in the know will rapidly move onto the next new thing, one which has yet to be mired in intrusive advertising and corporate nagging.

Could Dell have signed the death knell for Twitter? Only time will tell, but we'll certainly be looking elsewhere for our celebrity-sourced chit-chat fix sooner rather than later.

So there is two main things about this article I would like to comment.

First, about the fact that $6.5 millions is worthless compared to the large $61 million sales Dell has accomplished in overall.There is no doubt about that. Now Twitter is young, and Dell's participation in it is even more recent. Twitter world is brand new, and brands need to create their own territory and use of the tool. This is 0.1%. But beyond figures, what has been shown is that Twitter can become a retail channel. Foremost, what I would like to see is how profitable this channel could be. Indeed, is it costly? I don't think it requires a large bandwidth and a lot of server capacity like a ecommerce website would, since it is hosted by Twitter. I'd like to know:

  • The staff that takes care of these Twitter account. 35 people? I don't think so, but I'd like to know how qualify and how numerous the staff is.
  • I believe they did not create new CRM/ sales software, and might use the very same one they use for their call center.
I believe the conversion rates might be high. But if you are part of this project and you read this blog, I'd love your experience to be shared.

The other part wants to say that now that companies are using Twitter, it could be referred as "Twitter spamming", and could be the edge of the death of Twitter. This is totally the opposite. Once brand and companies will be convinced of the interest of this social media, then Twitter will be able to monetize their service, become profitable, and then secure the future of Twitter. I believe actually this should be the emergency for Twitter. With other companies that have failed to monetize their large audience and the end of the web 2.0 hype, they must find partners and people who are willing to pay to use Twitter's potential. If not, there is no way Twitter will never be profitable. I believe actually that one of the weakness of Twitter and other web 2.0 services has been to believe that when they'll reach the critical mass, they'll be able to make money, whatever happens, without even thinking about how to incorporate advertising or for example premium service to their offer.

As I have said, I am not really the most optimistic about Twitter as a company by itself, because they have failed many times to deliver its service in a dramatical way, but also because they have failed to show monetization potential yet.

Anyways, Dell's contribution on Twitter is huge, and I give them a lot of respect for that.