Massive Tech Incumbents & Social Media Services

Dell's social media listening service - which you can read about here - recently popped back on my radar.  (Dell actually announced the service in December.)  So I did a little digging / thinking purely out of curiosity.

Dell lists the social media listening amongst a panoply of other outsourced services - including insurance services and medical revenue cycle management services, all under the same business process outsourcing section of the site.  Nothing says smoking hot sexy market segment like the phrase "business process outsourcing".  

At first glance, it seems that social media doesn't belong - but it most certainly does.  The social media mechanics for large brands are enormously complex.  Responsiveness at scale requires sophisticated planning and systems - same thing for monitoring and mining the firehose for consumer insights.  Both are repeatable processes that a capable company can execute over and over regardless of brand, context, etc.  From this perspective, social media listening and payroll processing look surprisingly similar.

Dell's role as a "social media agency" is almost certainly predominantly reactive support-based and focused on business process, not creative, brand, marketing, etc.  I would be very surprised if the company staffed up the creative resources necessary to dream up and execute the next brilliant social media campaign.

Interestingly, Clemson University stands out as the non-big-business featured on the site.  It looks like the Dell/Radian6 relationship with Clemson is primarily for research and education.  Reading between the lines, I think that Dell helped Clemson build a social media command center and possibly provides ongoing related advisory services.

I suspect that the social offerings from massive tech incumbents in search of services revenue aren't a direct threat to the core business for top-tier social media marketing agencies.  But the new offerings will definitely compete for the same budget dollars and create strange market dynamics top-tier brands - Dell for social infrastructure and support, a social media agency for creative and campaigns, and a media agency for social ad buys.