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wimpy.jpgBy B.L. Ochman There’s a lot of conversation going on about whether bloggers should cut Dell some slack now that they’ve finally started a (lame) blog. Frankly, no.
Like Ford, whose social media debut, Ford Bold Moves, is pretty flaccid, Dell is wimping out on really joining the conversation. They both needed to hit the ground running.
Here you have two Fortune 500 companies with all the resources in the world. They could have consulted the top bloggers on the planet, the top social media marketing strategists, the very smartest new media innovators. But they turned instead to their giant ad agencies, who have not got a clue about the social media landscape, despite ample rhetoric. Both Ford and Dell are blowing a great opportunity to become leaders in Reality Marketing.
What Dell and Ford – companies who’ve both floundered by letting down their customers — should be doing is inviting customers to tell them what they really love and hate about the company. Ask customers how to move forward.

Your customers are incredibly smart, and remarkably creative. Trust them! They can create a far better marketing message than you can. Let them do it.

Steve Rubel said Dell should have acknowledged Dell Hell and the exploding Dell computer that the online world already knows about. Yes, they should, and then they should ask Jarvis and their other former customers what would make them come back from Apple, Lenovo, and others they’ve lost us to.
And then, to make matters worse, an intern at Dell’s PR firm, GCI Group, a division of Grey Worldwide, the giant ad agency, left a rude ANONYMOUS comment on Jeff Jarvis’ blog, calling him a worm for criticizing Dell. Nothing about that on Dell’s blog either.
Craig Danduloff writes that prominent bloggers’ criticism of Dell will help re-affirm that blogging is too wild and wooly for big companies:

“The fear of ‘attacks by mobs of lunatics’ is probably the largest inhibitor of blogging growth beyond sheer ignorance. Dell is widely known to be in a tough spot in terms of consumer issues, and as such their brave entry into the blogosphere will be publicized and analyzed widely. It’s too bad that the actions of these three important bloggers will, in this case, help re-affirm to many that not blogging is the right thing to do.”

Wrongo! Big companies have been sitting back “studying” the situation long enough. Turning to ad agencies, as Ford and Dell have done, is the wrong way to go.
The old Chinese proverb says “If you want to know the road ahead, ask someone who is coming back.” Companies that want to enter the social media arena should bypass their clueless ad agencies and ask bloggers (ahem, like me) how they might proceed into the new frontier. I’ve helped several Fortune 500 clients get a clue.