Interview with Jeff Dachis: Social Media Tips for Startups and What You’re (Probably) Doing Wrong

March 16, 2012

9:25 am

Jeff Dachis cofounded digital marketing firm Razorfish in the ’90s, raising an IPO of around $50 million in 1999. Nowadays, he’s working as the CEO of Dachis Group, a social media consultancy that serves 30,000 brands – including AT&T, Disney, HP, Nokia, and Target. They also maintain the Social Business Index to rank the performance of brands.

The Dachis Group prides itself on fostering engagement – not just passive likes and follows – and integrating “social” into the whole business. (In fact, it’s a testament to how new this is that the term “social business consultancy” is hard to parse.)

In the interview below, Dachis explains why you shouldn’t just count “vanity metrics,” other mistakes companies make online, and what to look for in a social media manager.

Tech Cocktail: For startups strapped for time and cash, what key social activities should they focus on?

Dachis: For those new to social, their first reaction is to try to bolster their vanity metrics. They try to buy likes on Facebook and followers on Twitter with gimmicks and bribes. For these folks, their money is better spent on a magazine ad. Social is a unique marketing platform because it provides something that no other channel can: engagement at scale. Brand engagement, with your target market meaningfully experiencing and interacting with your brand, is typically a tradeoff. You can have reach and scale or you can have engagement. While every company is different and should spend time figuring out what their social strategy is going to be, viewing it through a lens of authentic connection with your market is rarely a bad answer.

Tech Cocktail: What is the biggest mistake that companies make on social media? 

Dachis: We try not to view things in terms of “mistakes.” It is early for social. Companies are still figuring it out. It is also rapidly evolving…yesterday’s “best practice” is today’s “big mistake.” There are a few places where we see a lot of companies stumbling though:

  • Many digital marketers attempt to measure social impact the same way they measured digital (page views, click throughs, etc.).
  • Many brand marketers approach social media with a check box mentality (“What’s the social arm of this campaign? How do I get my TV commercial on YouTube and my magazine layout on Facebook?”).
  • Allowing fear of negative comments or press to keep a brand out of social completely, or relegated to another broadcast channel.
  • Focusing on social MEDIA instead of social BUSINESS. Social will touch every aspect of the organization and to maximize the effectiveness of social media, you need to be able to do things like funnel insights into the organization and marshal employee brand advocates.

While it is early, we also see a lot of brave, daring clients who are genuinely embracing and committing to being social businesses and seeing outsized returns as a result.

Tech Cocktail: Many young people feel they are qualified to be a social media manager, just because they grew up on Facebook. What does it really take to be a skilled social media manager? 

Dachis: Yes, there is that tendency to say, “I have 500 friends on Facebook so I’m qualified to be a social media manager.” Which is sort of like saying, “I read a lot of magazines so I’m qualified to be an editor” or “I watch a lot of movies so I should be a director.” And yet, to be fair, if you DON’T use the platforms you’re never going to be able to be a social media manager (any more than you could succeed as an editor without ever reading).

But social media manager is a tricky job – trickier than the name would seem to imply. You need to genuinely value the voice of the public and BE the voice of the brand TO the public. You need to commit to being “present.” You need to understand data. You need to be a bit of a brand planner. You need to be a bit of a content expert. And mostly, you need to really understand the implications of running a brand during a period of time in which every rule of communication from the past 3,000 years is being re-written in real time.

Tech Cocktail: What are some inspirational companies that are truly innovative with their social strategy? 

Dachis: There are some obvious ones of course – The Coca-Cola Company, Nokia, Red Bull, Levi’s, and many others. But the real question – at least for us – is not “which companies are innovative with their social strategy” so much as “which companies are truly innovative with the way they choose to exist as companies?” Because as we’ve discussed, this isn’t about “I’m doing cool things on Pinterest” – this is about completely revising the meaning and fabric of the organization.

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact

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