I was interested to hear that Dell has attributed $3 million in sales to its Twitter feed @DellOutlet. Dell Outlet sells discounted computer products and systems that have been used and refurbished, or were left over from canceled orders, or are the equivalents of “seconds,” that is, hardware that has some kind of cosmetic fault that doesn’t affect its performance.
I just looked at Tweetcounter, which currently places @DellOutlet at rank 75 for Twitter users. @DellOutlet has 779 thousand followers.
Three million is a sliver of overall Dell sales, but the assertion by Dell that Twitter has actually helped the company make any money at all has been celebrated by some in the blogosphere as validation of the business viability of Twitter. But some critical voices have been raised as well. They say that the use of Twitter as a sales promotion channel will adversely increase traffic, spam and “fail whales” on the site. They ask why Dell, and other companies using Twitter to generate leads, announce promotions, etc., don’t limit this kind of stuff to their own online turf. In other words, “Don’t do your dirty work here, guys!”
A few obvious answers come time mind. If there’s an online channel that a seller can use free of charge to contact potential customers, why wouldn’t he use it? Then, of course, there’s the fact that Twitter is so immediately searchable and socially spreadable. Anyone interested in a 2nd-hand computer system can find a whole range of potential sellers in one place, and can follow all of them easily, and in real time, using Tweet-deck or other applications that allow the user to group and aggregate tweets. Many Twitter users who hear of a good deal will happily post their finds on their own Twitter feeds spreading the word beyond the seller’s direct followers.
It does beg one question though. If Twitter starts charging companies to use the service commercially, will those companies still come? Apparently Twitter and Dell are talking about compensation models. It will be interesting to see where they end up.