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Conversations in China -- Look Beyond Twitter and Facebook

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Many businesses are still grappling with this thing called social media; how to join conversations; who is responsible for social media in our organization; or what the ROI is; and, a plethora of other issues. And while we ponder these things the Internet population grows at exponential rates, especially outside the United States.

Today, the Internet population of China exceeds the actual population of the United States. And, while many of us consider the value of the Facebook fan page or our business Twitter presence, China's population is adopting its own social networks that are neither Twitter or Facebook. A Web-savvy population that exceeds the size of U.S. market today; where growth of its own communities and social networks is exploding and where Web-based relationships are "connective," or sticky as we might say.

The connectivity among people on the Web in China is driven by national, cultural and very personal characteristics. People online in China communicate in a less formal manner, one that is very creative - full of mash ups, fun and what we might consider "pop-culture" expressions, sarcasm and humor. In many cases the chatter about products and brands is more prominent and powerful online than offline. In fact, online conversations in China are among the most powerful influence on what people buy.

It's as rewarding a market as it is challenging. Three years ago, we launched Direct2Dell Chinese, the first corporate blog in China in the computer industry, to get the conversation rolling and to connect Dell's customers in China with each other. If our blog helped us get our toes in the water, we have now waded into the water to really become a part of the online community in China. Several weeks ago we joined Sina.com launching a Dell channel, the largest Chinese-language infotainment and microblogging platform. And I am excited that as we approach 10,000 followers Dell is among the most connected businesses on Sina.

At Dell, we've always based our social media engagement on the philosophy that it's about conversations and connections wherever our customers are around the Web . It's an approach that is even more relevant in China, and we hope might make for some fun for Dell people who are engaging online as part of this effort. We are excited about Sina and the @Dell microblog and pleased that some of the most active Web thought leaders in China see that we are at the forefront of exploring new ways to connect in a meaningful way with our customers.

Businesses needn't hang back with respect to social media or global social media. Social media and online conversations are a global phenomena. The tools and sites are going to shift and mix over time - based on interests, geography, language, cultures and offerings. The social media space is bound to be very dynamic as we look ahead. In some situations, strong local networks will be among the key stopping places for people on the Web. However, if we go back to basics, it simply boils down to the premise that listening to customers has significant value to any business. Listen and learn from them - wherever they are on the Web. If business takes its' cue from customers and their online conversations- irrespective of the social network, language, culture or geography - you will be positioned to connect and win.

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