Social Net Advocacy: How Dell weaves social data into business processes

Posted on January 9, 2013 3:10 pm by | Business | Measurement | Monitoring | Social Media

Raj Narang and Munish GuptaThere are companies that talk about becoming a social enterprise. Then there are those that invest in it. Dell’s investment has resulted in multiple patent applications for technologies designed to be used just internally.

The tool—Social Net Advocacy (SNA)—was on display last month at Dell World 2012 in Austin. I had a chance to spend some time with Marketing Decision Sciences and Social Media Analytics Executive Director Raj Narang (left) and Social Media Marketing Director Munish Gupta, who gave me an in-depth demo of the tool.

Data from several social sources are fed into the tool, which provides insights into customer sentiment on 37 product lines, each featuring drill-downs to sub-products. “It’s a diagnostic tool to help us make sense of our Net Promoter Score,” Raj explained. “It’s a bridge to NPS. We’re able to measure the advocacy that each product enjoys in the marketplace and funnel that information back to the group responsible for that product.”

For example, Munish started a tour of SNA with Dell’s XPS line of laptops. The conversations identified from across the social spectrum covered such topics as the quality of the CPU, value for the price, the warranty and the ease of configuration.

It’s simple to click through layers of data (topics, media providers, authors, and posts) to find out what people are saying about products, components, stages of the customer journey (for both commercial and consumer customers), and business functions. Each category and subcategory includes a breakdown of sentiment—positive, negative and neutral, along with the number of posts devoted to that topic and the change in SNA over the past week.

“The number that shows the change in advocacy is the real gauge,” Raj said.

This at-a-glance visualization makes it easy to avoid getting embroiled in very negative discussions about end-of-life products or issues that have generated very few posts.

Dell SNA

Dell SNA

Dell SNA

Data isn’t worth much if you can’t take action based on what you glean from it. The idea behind SNA is to “connect the dots between internal KPIs and what customers are saying,” Raj said.

For example, one product was displaying a precipitously declining trend line. When Dell staff dug into it, they found a significant number of comments and posts expressing dismay over a pricing issue for one particular product. “We’re able to detect more than just sentiment,” Raj explained. “We’re able to analyze context. We know if these are real customers, influencers, or somebody else.”

Responding quickly, the company changed the price and Chief Blogger Lionel Menchaca wrote a post explaining what had happened, which resulted in a return to prior levels of positive sentiment. “It all happened in one day,” Raj told me. “And the general manager was never in the loop.” He didn’t have to be, with empowered subordinates able to make informed decisions based on solid data.

The integration of the data into Dell’s business processes—well beyond the scope of marketing and communication, to which social media is confined in most organizations—is what’s exciting about SNA. Making snap business decisions based on social data is, in part, what it means to be a social business.

In developing SNA, Dell created algorithm and virtualization technologies, along with some technologies that could be used to enhance SNA in the future, such as the ability to track over time the opinions among defined groups of customers who have been critical of the company. Dell has filed for patents on all of these technologies.

SNA is well integrated with Dell’s Social Media Command Center, where full-time staff monitor social interactions that reference Dell. “We get enhanced data from the Command Center, along with other sources,” Raj said. “We analyze the data and send it back to the Command Center. We don’t want to re-invent those channels. We want to make the Command Center smarter.”

Raj and Munish wouldn’t rule out the possibility that SNA could someday be made available as a product. After all, Dell is already helping organizations like the American Heart Association set up monitoring capabilities similar to its own Command Center. But there are no plans to commercialize SNA for now.



  • 1.This post explains what Dell's SNA is better than what Dell itself has written about you. Your own words on the practical business applications of SNA, and those of Raj and Munish are profound. I am in the process of writing about SNA for my newsletter, and I am going to quote your thoughts there. Thanks, Shel.

    sankar | January 2014 | Chennai, India

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