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Walking the Tightrope of Social Media: An MBA Grad from Dell Shares Insights
June 01, 2018
“It’s amazing how many companies don’t offer social media training,” observed Thom Lytle ’07 MBA in his April 3rd talk to Isenberg’s full-time MBA students. Social media training, he emphasized, should address content, disclosure of an individual’s company affiliation, guidance for executives, and a great deal more. “Senior executives can be the most vocal [in social media platforms],” he cautioned.
The Isenberg alumnus is Senior Director of Social Business and Digital Marketing with Dell. In that role, he has led the marketing team responsible for all aspects of social media and community across Dell Technologies, Dell, and Dell EMC. Lytle transitioned to Dell from EMC after the two merged in 2016. Before the marriage, he led the social media team at Hopkinton-based EMC.
In the fast-moving world of social media, a company’s employees have become valued players in disseminating its messages, Lytle told the students. An employee’s impact in leveraging a company’s brand typically enjoys a multiplier of seven. For Dell, that’s 140,000 employees. And “influencers"—employees or fans with added social media presence—can wield a far greater impact. It is critical, he continued, that employee tweets and their other social media communications have an “organic” resonance propelled by a measure of “free-range thought.” That means “no marketing antibiotics; no nudge stuff from us.”
With that said, companies must establish clear rules and boundaries for social media engagement by employees. First and foremost, when Dell employees discuss or mention the company on a personal account, they must clearly disclose their affiliation via a graphical tag created by the company that makes their affiliation self-evident. “You have to disclose your affiliation through your ‘#IWork4Dell’ hashtag,” Lytle explained. That allows the company to monitor, correct, or excise misinformation and worse, he said. Bottom line: employees must be accountable.
The Trouble with Influence
“Influencers, for example, can be misleading,” noted Lytle, who offered a litany of examples, including last year’s Fyre Festival, which employed a social media influencer program to draw hundreds of eager concert-goers to an island in the Bahamas for a weekend of rock concerts and fun in the sun. The problem: though they got the sun, the venue failed to deliver on music, basic amenities, and certainly the fun.
When Dell and EMC joined forces, the new company was quick to deploy a combined social media management system and offer updated social media training to its employees. At the same time, it hired a cyber-sleuth whose task was to identify and shut down hundreds of dormant and redundant brand social media accounts.
For their employees, Dell “aims to avoid creating a ‘tweet factory’,” Lytle continued. Still, the universe of social media influence begins with our employees, he insisted, illustrating that phenomenon with a photographic analogy. The photo, courtesy of Carl Sagan, showed a distant planet earth from space. Why shouldn’t we view a company’s influence—driven by its employees—from that same flipped perspective of outside-in? he asked. That customer’s-eye view of a company and its employees is sure to yield new perspectives and new insights.
Ultimately, though, it is critical that social media align with a company’s marketing strategy, Lytle underscored. The idea of two separate strategies—that is anathema. Still, in the social media domain, “Every situation is different. It’s a new world—not like five years ago. That keeps us busy updating our own guidance and best practices, but also helps us keep our jobs!”