From the NYTimes: These days, lots of companies are talking about their “Twitter strategy,” but few have figured out how to measure what amassing hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter does for their businesses. Dell has shown that it can go directly to the top line.
Dell said Thursday night that the company had earned $3 million in revenue directly through Twitter since 2007, when it started posting coupons and word of new products on the microblogging site. In the last six months, Dell Outlet earned $1 million in sales from customers who came to the site from Twitter, after taking 18 months to earn its first $1 million. Dell has also earned another $1 million from people who click from Twitter to Dell Outlet to Dell.com and make a purchase there. Dell joins companies like Starbucks, JetBlue and Whole Foods as one of the most active corporate Twitter users. “It’s a great way to fix customer problems and hear what customers have to say, it’s a great feedback forum and it leads to sales — how can you miss?” said Richard Binhammer, who works in Dell’s corporate affairs office and is active on its Twitter accounts.
Twitter made exactly $0 from those Dell sales, something that will very likely change. Twitter’s founders have said that it someday hopes to make money from its corporate users, with paid accounts that offer additional features like analysis of the traffic to businesses’ Twitter profiles and verified accounts so customers know they are not dealing with an impostor. When asked whether Dell would pay Twitter for an account, Mr. Binhammer said, “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
Dell uses Twitter to send out coupons, including some that are exclusive to its Twitter followers. It is particularly useful for the Dell Outlet, Mr. Binhammer said, because the inventory of returned and refurbished products fluctuates. If it gets 30 flat-screen televisions one week, for example, it can alert its customers. Dell Outlet has 624,000 followers on Twitter.
Dell also announces company and product news and talks directly with customers, responding to complaints or asking for feedback. There are about 200 Dell employees who talk to customers on Dell’s Twitter accounts, from a gaming expert to a server expert to members of the chief technology officer’s staff, Mr. Binhammer said.
For example, as I wrote in an article on the various ways people use Twitter, Dell heard on Twitter that customers thought the apostrophe and return keys were too close together on the Dell Mini 9 laptop and fixed the problem on the Dell Mini 10. Now, the Dell Mini product development team is asking around on Twitter for new ideas for the next generation of the computer.