At first glance, Dell is social-media savvy. The company's IdeaStorm site allows customers to brainstorm ideas with the PC giant. The Direct2Dell blog is a timely read for customers, partners and journalists tracking the company. And Dell has received a social media award from AMI-Partners. But take a closer look: Dell's channel-related social media efforts have gone silent at a time when Lenovo and other rivals are raising their social media voices in the channel. Here's the update.

Why is The VAR Guy picking on Dell today? Hey, let's keep in perspective. The VAR Guy has Dell PCs and even a Dell Plasma TV in his house. And our resident blogger frequently blogs about Dell's PartnerDirect channel partner program. So generally speaking The VAR Guy isn't a Dell basher.

Still, there are some clear problems with Dell's social media efforts:

1. Channel Blog Goes Dark: The Direct2Dell blog remains lively but the Dell Channel Blog has been silent since June 2010... and the blog's final headline has contained a typo for five months. Plus, the final blog entry amounted to a couple of sentences about nothing. Ouch.

2. Corporate Blog Lacks Channel Focus: Sure, some channel news surfaces on the Direct2Dell channel blog. But overall Dell's corporate blog doesn't say much about about the company's partner efforts. Search the term "channel" and there's an August 2010 entry from Channel Chief Greg Davis. The previous channel entry: April 2008, written by Amie Paxton. Two channel entries in two years? Not good.

3. Initiatives Go Silent: During portions of 2009 and early 2010, Dell Channel Chief Greg Davis held quarterly recap calls for the channel media. A few days after Dell announced earnings, Davis would step up to the microphone and offer a PartnerDirect update. Soon after, The VAR Guy and other channel media (you know, the legacy folks...) would share key PartnerDirect milestones with readers. More recently, those quarterly phone briefings have ended. Was it something The VAR Guy said... or wrote? Hmmm...

4. More Than Hardware?: Despite the recent silence, Dell has done a reasonably good job describing how partners can benefit from server consolidation, virtualization and other data center opportunities. But when it comes to managed services and Software as a Service, Dell has gone super-silent within the channel.

When Dell acquired Silverback (way back in 2007), Silverback's technology ranked among the best-know remote monitoring and management platforms for managed services providers. Fast forward to the present and Dell has been absolutely silent in 2010 about its managed services channel strategy. Sure, Dell wants to sell managed services direct. But are there any MSP updates -- at all -- for channel partners? The VAR Guy usually stays on top of such topics. But Dell has been radio silent.

Fix the Disconnect

Somewhere within Dell  there's a social media disconnect. While Dell Corporate celebrates social media milestones and viral marketing campaigns, the Dell PartnerDirect channel team seems to have gone silent on the social media front.

Meanwhile rivals like Lenovo seem to be everywhere in the channel. Director of SMB Jay McBain is blogging directly to channel partners on the Lenovo site. And McBain is attending most of the best-known SMB partner conferences. He's everywhere, gathering perspectives then sharing them in his blog.

Where's Dell? And why has the company's channel-centric social media effort gone silent? In The VAR Guy's opinion, the changes started around the time Dell Channel Community Manager Amie Paxton left the company.

Memo to Dell: Re-read Paxton's July 2008 blog entry to channel partners. In it she wrote:
I'd like to invite you to take part in our Dell Channel Blog. The blog is designed to be an open forum for the greater PartnerDirect community. That's why at anytime, you're welcome to submit a guest post.

By creating a guest post on the Dell Channel blog, you can:

· Share your perspectives with other partners, vendors, Dell Channel team members, industry analysts and the public at large.

· Offer expert advice on Dell's latest products, technologies and services.

· Promote your case studies that might benefit the PartnerDirect community.

· Spark a discussion on almost any topic, from general best practices to specific trends.

· Help shape the future of the PartnerDirect program.

Posts should be approximately 150-250 words, and submitted to Amie_Paxton@Dell.com. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about blogging.

Thank you in advance for your time and participation,

Amie Paxton

Dell Channel Community Manager

Back to Basics

Dell's task is simple: Re-read Paxton's 2008 blog entry and then follow-through on her bullet points. It's time for Dell to get back to basics and re-establish social media communications across the IT channel. In the meantime, Dell's silence is deafening.

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