Technology & InternetUnraveling 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. 

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.


ProfErin NelsonexploreB2B GmbHCommunication & Marketing Manager


Brett McArdleBrett McArdlestorytelling in social business

I'd love to read more about this. In one of my previous jobs, my employer (a faith-based publisher) relied heavily on storytelling as a part of marketing.

I think it's critical because it allows your staff a greater sense of personal investment with the brand. In essence, it can help with sales. Plus, we live our lives by narratives. Just think about how many times you've come home, and your spouse asks "How was your day?" S/he is asking for a story.

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Erin  NelsonErin NelsonStorytelling is Business

Hi Brett!

Thanks for your comment. I am sorry I didn't respond sooner.

You are absolutely right when you say, "We live our lives by narratives."

Storytelling fuses our lives together. It fosters a sense of togetherness in the moment, which inspires trust in the foundation and connectedness of the relationship.

I think that sometimes people think that they are not good "storytellers." This is sad and, most often, not true. It is important to let people (and employees) know there is no "right" way to tell a story - and that everyone has a story to tell.

(Keeping that in mind: there are right arenas, moments and audiences for certain stories. Being aware of these distinctions is critical in both our personal and business lives.)

It is the job of employers to validate this uniqueness, while guiding the story lines to incorporate the message of the brand.

Thanks again for your comment. I hope to read more from you!


P.S. Michael Brenner is a great resource for the business of storytelling:

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Regional Manager Nigel PaycheckRegional Manager Nigel PaycheckBig Data!!

Great article, and Big Data is similar to Big Brother and is scary, but exciting as how every little communication we, consumers, and they, big business, make has huge influences on our everyday lives. Big Data allows Big retailers to change their product mix, more effectively for more profits. Big Data, allows the small consumer, to get a much product choice at store level.

Big Data's information sources are very effective towards their bottom line, but in time, Big Data will have to supply big Brother with more information than we, the consumer, will want. Oh, wait it is 2013 and this is happening now. Just ask the DOJ why they need all the "meta data" from At
+T, verizon, comcast, etc.

We all love this instant technology, we love the innovations, but when we read the book 1984, we then can put into perspective where this information surplus can weaken our society as a whole.

Towards all your success!!!


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Hakim RbzHakim Rbzsocial business

social business is based essentielly on human relations in other terms contact.however to make and grow contact today on the internet people use the social networks as facebook ,twitter, google that way business as commercial products are presented to the consumers.

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