Beyond Ecommerce: Lee Bryant of Dachis Group talks Social Business

Following the merger of social technology consultancy Headshift with social business solutions provider Dachis Group in 2009, Headshift founder Lee Bryant and his teams have worked hard to integrate the organisation with the wider Dachis Group. Their hard work paid off in January this year, when it was announced that Headshift would formally be changing its identity to Dachis Group London.

Last week, Somesso was lucky enough to catch Lee, now MD of Dachis Group Europe, for a quick chat about his vision for the future of social business. It's not enough just to sell online, Lee says. "If it's just a team in the marketing department 'doing' social it's a struggle to deliver value," he says. "If you just prioritise net new sales you're treating it as an ecommerce channel. And that's not the only way to look at it."

Certainly, a much quoted recent report from Forrester showed that social media accounts for less than 1% of online sales. So if social isn't just about ecommerce, what other ways might we look at it?

For Lee, it's about looking at ways companies can be organised socially: "If you look at a company's ecosystem, some relationships are internal only and some exist on the surface, as part of marketing and branding. But a lot of value is inherent in flows of relationships between customers, employees and other networks."

The value of social business lies in its ability to help those flows to, well, flow: "Our vision at Dachis Group is to use social technology and these insights to make businesses work better across those relationships. Metrics might include making businesses cheaper to run, more fluid, more responsive. Helping businesses work less hard to attract/retain new clients and partners. And to do that, you have to look at supporting ecosystem and relationships."

But this can bring its own challenges. To get the most from social technologies, Lee says, organisations should aim to keep values and culture throughout the organisation consistent with those presented externally in the brand image and associated communications. "One of the key challenges at the moment is that early adopters of social as an external marketing tool are getting interested in extending social technology into their organisations. But this can run into difficulties where social has focused on the image presented externally without driving cultural change in the company."

Put simply, superficial social technology can end up making image problems worse. "If you're presenting a cool, approachable image on Facebook, but once people get past Facebook friendliness they hit call centre land, then they won't be impressed," Lee says. And changing a culture isn't just about buying a new social technology. "Just because you've launched a great new social tool doesn't necessarily mean you'll automatically get a better working culture," he warns. "To get the most from social business internally and externally, businesses need a strategy, clear goals and rigorous follow up."

This is not likely to happen overnight. "With the current pace of change, we're still looking at 5-year plans for real transformation in businesses." But organisations that succeed in taking social business beyond sales and branding can, in turn, see a beneficial effect on their brand - and on their sales. "If you're a cool company, then people will fight on your behalf. And you'll find your customers doing a lot of your marketing for you."

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