Dell's direct2dell blog is a year old, and the blog's keeper, Lionel Menchaca, has posted his insight and comments on the last year in the blogosphere...

"While we've made progress, I'm not saying everything is where we want it to be. We stumbled out of the gate. Some things went well, others didn't. We arranged an interview between a blogger and a Dell VP. Through my work on the blog, I've had the good fortune to meet bloggers like Virginia Miracle, Jeff Jarvis, Tony Hung, Robert Scoble, John Jantsch, Jeremiah Owyang (who's someone I continue to learn a lot from). All in all, I think Mack Collier provided a pretty fair assessment of where we are right now."  

IMHO, it is refreshing to see that Dell's team on the blog has acknowledged the challenges of maintaining a corporate blog, and took th etime to outline what they learned over the last year:

  • there is power in the voice of customers and their feedback
  • it's not a good idea to ignore tough issues that come up from customers
  • blogging can be tough and requires patience, balance and responsiveness. Essentially, it's important to listen and respond to your customers. Otherwise, as Lionel said, "things get out of whack really quickly."
  • It takes time to build your blog and it helps to have "a thick skin"
  • Consider launching your blog when there are issues. Lionel notes that when they kicked off the blog, they saw 50% of the comments they received were negative, and now a year later they've seen that number decrease to under 25% negative.

As many employees with blogs on MSDN and Technet have found, once you open a line of communication up to your customers and partners, they expect that you will respond. I agree that it' sdifficult to scale customer support through a blog format, and our product groups and customer service teams are always looking at new ways to leverage broad commuications with the people in the various communities.

I've heard stories from teams in several groups (including Windows, Exchange and Windows Mobile) how they have made great connections with customers initially through their blog; sometimes, employees will leave a post on a customer's blog (hey, we read as well as write) to get more information on something someone posts about a Microsoft product.

And with programmes like the ones we run through Microsoft Connect we have a chance to get feedack from customers in our managed beta programmes. As of this post, various prouct teams have fielded 247,505 bugs submitted, received 35,638 suggestions from the more than 1,028,332 Connect members to date. Systems and sites like Connect help us to listen to our customers needs, provide valuable trials and respond. Drawing on concepts such as the one that Dell trialed through their IdeaStorm site, the community already active on Connect could provide their own feedback and ideas for Microsoft to act on.

But if you do it, you have to be prepared to respond to and potentially act on the ideas submitted.

"A big reason why I'm still blogging away a year later is because lots of people at Dell are committed to taking feedback from customers and doing something with it. The action piece is a critical."

Here here.