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Q&A: Jeff Dachis on the new Facebook APIs and big data

Arguably Jeff Dachis is most known for co-founding the interactive marketing and design agency, Razorfish, in 1995.

A two person operation which started in Dachis’s bedroom in New York, blossomed into a 2200 strong company worth more than six billion dollars. With the dot-com crash, Razorfish fell with it. Its shares plunged to $ 1 from $ 47 per share at the beginning of 2000 and 400 employees lost their jobs.

Leaving Razorfish after its downturn, Dachis went on to form Bond Art + Science in 2006 and in 2008, Dachis founded the Dachis Group in Austin, Texas with the idea that everything can and will be social. 

We had a chance to talk to Dachis about why he set up Dachis Group, its relationship with Facebook, how they are integrating Facebook’s new APIs and how marketers can start to leverage Facebook as it moves into big data territory.

What prompted you to establish the Dachis Group? What was missing in the marketing ecosystem before you launched?

When I founded Razorfish in the 90’s, I did so because I saw the profound impact that digital was going to have on every aspect of business and the marketing ecosystem.  History, of course, has proven that to be true.  In 2006, I became convinced that social media was going to have an even more profound impact on business; I founded Dachis Group in 2008 to help transform the world’s largest businesses into Social Businesses.

The marketing ecosystem, and in particular brand marketers, spend an enormous amount of time and money trying to drive authentic brand engagement with their markets.  Previously, brands could either get scale (e.g. buy a Super Bowl ad) or deep engagement (i.e. street teams and events).  I believe social represents the key to brand marketers achieving engagement at scale.


Last week you launched Content Insight and integrated Facebook Insights API into your social analytics. How will this integration help real ROI measurement for big brands?

One of the hardest problems to solve in social performance measurement is how specific social programs and activities affect brand based business outcomes like awareness, brand love, or mindshare.  While the rest of our Social Performance Monitor provides the other necessary components, Content Insight provides the critical, correlative link between activities a brand is executing in social (such as Facebook posts, tweets, new YouTube videos, etc) and movement in the metrics that drive those brand outcomes.  It clearly lays out a brand’s content strategy and provides deep insight into how that content performed.  In addition, that real-time insight allows brands to course correct mid campaign so they can optimize their performance.


How has your relationship with Facebook grown?

Dachis Group has been a close partner since the early days.  We represented 3 of the original 7 Preferred Developer Partners that Facebook began to partner with to help brands succeed.  Since that time, we’ve developed and delivered over 500 Facebook experiences and have created and managed brand pages with tens of millions of fans.  

As Facebook has matured, so has our relationship. We were recently included in three of Facebook’s four new Preferred Marketing Developer programs, one of only 6 companies to receive such an honor.


Why is it important for brands to have more in depth analytics?

Social holds the promise for brand marketers to finally be able to quantify the benefits they receive from their investments.  Beyond robust return on marketing investment analysis, the real-time nature of social analysis means that brands can optimize their engagement at scale in flight to provide juice returns and influence brand strategy before widespread damage from missteps can occur.


How does your new Content Insight work and how will brands be able to leverage their Facebook pages using it?

Content Insight analyzes the content a brand shares in social, analyzes and reports the engagement and performance of that content over time, and then correlates it to lift in brand based outcomes (like brand awareness, mindshare, brand love, and advocacy) as well as shifts in conversation and topical sentiment.  Brands leverage it to optimize the content that they create, make real time adjustments in campaigns, and understand how their conversation and content is influencing opinion and sentiment of their audience around a topic.


What should businesses look to do with their Facebook campaigns? 

Businesses need to be explicit about the goals of their campaigns, determine a measurement strategy, track their progress against those goals to make course corrections, and then use those quantitative outcomes to inform their future social marketing investments.

Beyond measuring social performance, businesses need to more tightly tie their Facebook campaigns to their traditional media as well as to their community management strategy.


As a company working with big data, why is big data such a big deal and how did it get that way?

There are two answers to that.  First, it’s about the advances in technology. We’ve always had big data.  The problem was that there wasn’t a lot you could do with it.  Today, technologies like Hadoop, Mahout, Cassandra, and others, coupled with the cloud, allow the world to do advanced analytics like natural language processing, machine learning, semantic analysis, and cluster analysis on big data.

Second, social created some really interesting big data to which we can apply that technology.  The value that can be unlocked is amazing.  The two things happening essentially at the same time has created the buzz around big data that we see right now.


How is the era of big data changing the practice of digital marketing?

Digital marketing gained prominence through measurability.  Digital lead to the explosion of performance marketing that we see today.  Big data plus social is allowing brand marketing to join the digital marketing party with similar measurability for brand based business outcomes.  That’s a big deal.


What implications will digital marketers face with this big data trend?

It’s all about scale.  Big data in social unlocks engagement at scale.  Digital marketers will have to learn to work through others to drive brand engagement. Advocates, employees, partners, experts…marketers will have to hone their influence skills.


How can marketers leverage big data without being overwhelmed by it? 

Three words.  Purpose, Context, Altitude.

Purpose: Our big data analytics platform analyzes 300 trillion permutations of our data.  While most marketers’ foray into big data might not be quite that extreme, it is still daunting.  If you don’t have a purpose, you’ll never find valuable insights.  

Think about your business goal and then determine how to formulate a “question” you can ask of the data.  We organize those around performance insights and audience insights.  That gives the marketers the ability to get to something valuable in seconds.

Context: Most companies operate at large scale…dozens to hundreds of countries, dozens to hundreds of stores or channels, dozens to hundreds of social accounts, dozens to hundreds of brands.  Marketers need to organize their big data so they can easily filter and organize their data by these contexts.  When the CMO asks, “how did the advocacy campaign for brand x that we ran in Germany on Facebook do?” the marketer better be able to get into that context quickly.

Altitude: When you look at the social business intelligence space, you see two common approaches, both of which cause issues for marketers who are trying to deal with the “bigness” of big data.  In the listening space, you commonly see keyword queries that return thousands and thousands of individual tweets, comments, and posts.  

While the detail is helpful, there is typically no way to understand what it means or to measure it outside of less than useful “mention counts”.  In the measurement space, you typically see need columns of numbers with intriguing labels like “engagement” or “virality”.  On their own, they rarely provide enough detail to gain insight from the numbers.  Who is engaging?  Why did that post go viral?  

We try to strike a balance between the two by organizing our big data analytics at the highest altitude and then letting the marketer drill down further and further, in context, with a specific purpose, all the way down to the individual Facebook comment or reply on RenRen.  This gives the marketer the data they are looking for while also providing the insight in the “why” behind the numbers.


How important is integrated marketing and how can brands move into integrating their on and off line strategy?

In industries like retail, entertainment, media, and hospitality, integrating social, in-store / on-premise, and mobile tactics is arguably the most effective tactic for driving commerce and loyalty.  

I was recently reviewing the analytic data for a large hotel chain.  We drilled into metrics around new hotel openings and noticed a dig in satisfaction a week after launch.  Drilling into that metric, and then filtering the conversations by negative sentiment, I saw the topic of most conversations was around the hotel restaurant opening.  Drilling into a conversation at random, I saw a lady who was incredibly disappointed that the restaurant had run out of snow peas.  

If the hotel manager would have seen that when I did and provided the guest with an apology, gift, or other acknowledgement, the hotel could have cemented the loyalty of that guest and probably created an advocate in social channels whose value would have been thousands of times that of the cost of a few hundred loyalty points.


As for engagement, what are your top five tips for brands to engage online?

  1. Get measurement in place.  Engagement is great, but you need to be able to measure it, and understand the return you are getting from your investment in your audience.
  2. Understand your scale and use your social team wisely.  There are probably less than a dozen members on your team.  You have an audience in the tens or hundreds of millions.  There is very little engagement they can drive on their own.
  3. Mobilize your advocates.  They are better marketers than you are.  Identify them, engage them, reward them, and measure their impact.
  4. Integrate your employees.  They are your most knowledgeable, passionate advocates, and the easiest to organize.
  5. Coordinate your partners.  Your distribution ecosystem and key brand partners have aligned interest.  The more coordinated you are at the intersection of alignment the greater amplification of engagement you will receive.


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