Unraveling Social Business: An Interview with Dion Hinchcliffe

Dion Hinchcliffe is the Chief Strategy Officer at Dachis Group. He researches, writes and speaks around the globe on social business topics including strategy, business transformation, big data, analytics and enterprise architecture.

1. How would you describe the term “social business”? How did you become introduced to this concept?

DH: The short definition is the use of social media to achieve business goals. A more nuanced definition is that it is the adaptation of consumer social media to the needs of the business world.  I first heard of the term from Peter Kim of Dachis Group, who was the first person to use the term in that context online.

2. You talk about Big Data being about to inspire brand loyalty based on its ability to anticipate customer behavior. Can you define Big Data and briefly explain how companies can measure their performance?

DH: We use the term Big Data to talk about the ability to process and understand vast quantities of information in a very short time, typically within the time frames of useful business decision making. This might be only minutes or hours. Big Data is a set of technologies and approaches that lets us accomplish this and brings context to virtually all the information we have in near real-time.

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Once you can see all the information you have and query it quickly to get answers, companies can use this intelligence to set baselines, track improvements, and understand their performance in depth in a way they could not before.

3. Many businesses (especially B2B) still doubt the relevance of social media for professional/branding purposes. What do you say to these company organizers?

DH: Frankly, I’d say the data is now in and it shows that social media drives real business performance, particularly for marketing and customer service. Sustained analysis and research by McKinsey, AIIM, IBM, Frost and Sullivan, and others shows that organizations that are social have consistently higher levels of revenue and profit.

The actual issue is that many organizations don’t understand the medium very well and have seen only incremental results. Others that have invested in figuring it out are driving high-impact results including major cost reductions and higher customer satisfaction, beyond just the bottom line benefits.

4. In a recent article, you talked about employee involvement in social media as being a vital way to accelerate social business. How does this process work? Is the training and oversight of these employees worth the investment?

DH: The social capital of employees collectively outweighs that of most companies. If companies want to engage socially to drive marketing, sales, and customer care, they need to get those employees involved and engaged, in scale.

I’ve written about how this seems to be working, but typically a company will have a centralized listening capability that identifies and prioritizes key conversations in social media, and then community managers or operations staff draw in the right people from the company to participate in order to drive the desired outcomes.

5. Is a multilayer, social media structure necessary for companies and brands to succeed in 2012?

DH: I think companies will be more successful if they reduce the number of social environments they maintain and seek the broadest reach of their efforts possible.

A multi-layer social media structure does, however, seem necessary with a central component to handle certain things like listening, analytics, and community management (or least the core part of it), and a decentralized aspect that enables and encourages engagement across the company.

In 2013, tactical social media efforts will need to be coordinated with existing social media assets, and not — for the most part — engage without coordination or use of the company’s social platform.

6. What role does storytelling play in social business? Does a thoughtful, brand narrative work to enhance a company’s bottom line?

DH: Social media is about people, and people are naturally engaged by stories. So yes, I think a thoughtful narrative is powerful, especially if it’s co-written by and features your customers as the central actors.

7. Is it still profitable to invest in offline/traditional marketing and business development or is the online marketplace (including social media networks) more powerful than tradition advertisements and product placement?

DH: Unless a company already has a very established set of social capital, traditional marketing is required to create the funnel of conversations necessary to start engaging socially. So most companies today will typically use social to kick-off and amplify traditional marketing. However, a company that is fully engaged at scale socially can meaningfully reach the world far more cost effectively than legacy approaches to marketing and business development.

8. The social media landscape has evolved at a rapid pace. How do companies achieve lasting influence within this often-volatile framework?  

DH: Put simply, they must design for constant change. The pace of technology is speeding up, not slowing down. Organizations that are not continuously adaptive will fall far behind those that are. Thus the framework is volatile, though the mission of creating happy customers itself is timeless.

9. If you could pinpoint one (ultimate) goal for online participation in social business, what would that goal be?

DH: Co-creation. Partnering with the global network to created shared outcomes in scale as cost-effectively and richly as possible, whatever part of the customer journey that’s being discussed.

This post was originally published on exploreB2B.

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