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'Social Business by Design': A Road Map

  |  June 8, 2012   |  Comments

Dachis Group consultants share options on the path to social business nirvana.

A former supervisor used to hand out tough assignments for projects to our team, consistently saying they'd be "easy" to complete. Invariably, "easy" became a euphemism for four-letter words: work - hard work.

social-business-by-designThe same truism applies to social media and social business. If a supervisor thinks it's easy to do both, you have important allies in Dachis Group consultants Dion Hinchcliffe and Peter Kim. Their new business strategy book, "Social Business by Design" provides a road map, written jargon-free for the C-level executive, to understand options on the path to social business nirvana.

As most marketers know, social media marketing is difficult but rewarding work. While just about anyone can set up a Facebook page, Twitter account, or YouTube channel, those are baby steps to becoming a social business.

Embracing a social business mindset is even more challenging. It demands that a business overhaul its operations to be more inclusive of all employees, partners, and customers. This sort of undertaking requires buy-in from nearly everyone in an organization, from top-level executives to front-line customer service reps.

Let's consider Hinchcliffe's and Kim's definition of social business:

Social business…"taps into entirely new sources of creative output (everyone on the network), relinquishes structure that reduces productive outputs, and inverts methods of traditional control and decision making in work processes (anyone can contribute as long as they create value) while focusing on useful outcomes."

To keep things simple, Hinchcliffe and Kim identify 10 social business tenets and provide examples for adopting the tenets throughout the book. Narrative is accompanied by charts that depict areas of functional responsibility for social businesses, an "engagement cycle," and more.

Who's Winning in Social Business and Why

Throughout the book, the authors discuss how social business strategies help real businesses get real results: better marketing, sales, customer service, product development, and work productivity.

Take the example of Intuit's TurboTax and its aging customer support system. It could not keep up with rival H&R Block's network of 12,000 office locations and in-person support. The authors explain:

"Intuit came to a remarkable conclusion: its single largest and most valuable asset wasn't its brand, its state-of-the-art facilities, or even its thousands of workers. It was its customers. They were the millions who had to file tax returns every year and had been through every possible tax situation," the authors wrote. Intuit created a system called Live Community social support system and integrated it into the TurboTax product. That service was credited with helping Intuit provide better customer support, lower product abandonment, and achieve over twice the market share of its competitor.

The authors pack "Social Business by Design" with dozens of other examples, explaining how other businesses have adopted social business principles and what that meant for their operations. Among the examples: enterprise tech companies SAP, IBM, and Microsoft, as well as MillerCoors, Ford, the Amex Open Forum, Intuit's TurboTax, and L'Oreal.

The authors demonstrated discipline, writing for high-level business executives and avoiding technology buzzwords and acronyms. For instance, when discussing "social media building blocks," they define for search engine optimization, social customer relationship, community management, and workforce collaboration. I found their definition of "demand generation" to be helpful, too: "Targeted digital awareness efforts to drive an understanding of and interest in a product or service."

Throughout the book, Hinchcliffe and Kim focus on businesses - and not the people or technologies that make them social. It goes without saying: any business that aspires to be social must put people first. Maybe that's a project that social business advocates can produce using a collaborative platform.


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Anna Maria Virzi

Anna Maria Virzi, ClickZ's executive editor from 2007 until 2012, covered Internet business and technology since 1996. She was on the launch team for Ziff Davis Media's Baseline and also worked at Forbes.com, Web Week, Internet World, and the Connecticut Post.

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