Dell’s Special Treats on Twitter

Dell is targeting people who love to Tweet.

The No. 2 PC player has launched a plan to push exclusive deals to users of Twitter, building on its already extensive presence on the red-hot microblogging community and seeking to drive more sales at its online Dell Outlet.

The first exclusive Twitter deal of that plan is a 20 percent discount on an Outlet Latitude XT tablet PC. The landing page welcomes Twitter users and congratulates them for being savvy shoppers.

Dell said it plans to Tweet a new product deal each week — “Tweets” being the short, 140-character posts sent via the service — to its 11,000 followers on Twitter. Thus far, the deals are only open to U.S. residents.

“Our team wanted to show their thanks to the Twitter world through these new deals which will continue each week,” Bob Pearson, vice president of communities and conversations at Dell, wrote in a post at the Direct2Dell blog.

The effort comes as Dell, which undertook a massive internal restructuring last year, continues struggling to regain its footing in the PC market. Having lost the industry lead to HP two years ago, and now working to cope with a softening climate for PC sales, Dell has begun showing a willingness to pursue new avenues to enhance its bottom line.

One of those has been Twitter, which Dell has been using aggressively to drive sales since 2007. At present, Dell has 80 Twitter accounts concentrating on different product lines, business segments and countries, Pearson wrote. Many of those feeds are proving massively popular: Dell’s @DellOutlet Twitter feed has 14,070 followers, and the company said Twitter drove $1 million in sales between 2007 and 2008.

New product categories are also thought to be in the works for Dell. Rumors have the company launching a smartphone as soon as this month. While details remain scant, CEO Michael Dell said yesterday that his company expects to be in the thick of an emerging class of devices that feature screen sizes falling in a range between those of notebooks and devices like the Apple iPhone.

Microblogging Boom

Meanwhile, Dell’s online marketing efforts are another feather in the cap of three-year-old Twitter. The microblogging site’s power as a communications tool has already been widely documented — most recently last month, when its users were recognized for being the first to report downed US Airways Flight 1549, which landed in New York’s Hudson River.

But major companies’ embrace of Twitter and similar services remains fairly rare. Coffee giant Starbucks maintains multiple presences on Twitter, at @Starbucks and @MyStarbucksIdea, while JetBlue and Comcast have won acclaim for their customer service efforts on the site.

According to a blog post by Stephanie Nelson, who heads Dell Outlet’s Twitter effort, the microblogging site had been the initial social media target for Dell Outlet when it began posting information on new offerings and special offers in 2007.

Spokespeople from Dell and Twitter did not return calls for comment by press time.

Twitter had another reason to crow last month: The site’s traffic surpassed Digg, the popular social bookmarking site. Hitwise, an Internet traffic monitoring firm, reported that Tweets spiked the week of Jan. 12, likely due to coverage of the plane crash that week.

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