Today I have been working on a chapter to my third book that has to do with ecosystem research and understanding the influencers within it. This is something that organizations are slowly but surely moving towards and these are the reasons for it:
1) Most organizations really do not know how to define their ecosystem .
2) Most organizations do not know who the key influencers are within the ecosystem.
3) Most organizations do not know who the competitors really are and how they use social media to get their voice to the target group of their product/solution.
4) Most organizations do not know what to do with this information that is collected of the ecosystem that they are part of.
5) Most organizations do not know how to position social media strategy in their overall business strategy including marketing and PR strategy.
6) Most organizations do not know how to execute on social media strategy in their respective business domain.
I recently did a speech about this topic for a pretty large crowd (around 300) of people and based on the feedback I received was that it made them think about their own digital footprint and how they are seen in the cyberspace. Many organizations are in the process of thinking about how to ensure that they are part of the cyberspace chatter and that they understand how it fits in their overall marketing and PR strategy framework.
It is also obvious to me that there are different maturity levels in the thinking based on the cultural background and also maturity level on companies and how they see social media. The most critical audience is the one that see social media as hidden porn or a way to peep into others life. Unfortunately they are missing the point. Peeping has nothing to do with doing business using social media strategy and tools.
It is also unfortunate that social media has become almost inflated term to some extent and this is probably also due to so many snake-oil salespeople that have found a good way to educate people how to be effective in using Facebook. These sales consultants usually do not tie the social media strategy to the overall business strategy which makes the senior executive management perplexed what happened. No wonder the budgets in many companies are not approved relating to social media!
But social media is really not about Facebook use or Twitter, it is a change the way we act and think. It is not replacing all of the marketing and PR activities in an organization. The way I see it is that it supplement some of the stuff that we are used to do. If an organization thinks that social media is the function of marketing and PR department, they are on the wrong track again. It is about educating the entire workforce how to think about social media and how to participate in it. I know that there are many that do not agree on this, but I do not see the old-fashioned, protected walled garden approach to work anymore. If somebody can give be evidence of me being wrong, I am more than happy to learn about it. I have to admit it took me a while to really understand how to be part of the cyberspace flow, but now I see huge potential on a personal level and also as a company.
The approach that we are taking is a three-step process: map, monitor and mediate. The mapping exercise is to identify the ecosystem, its borders and the “reality” that we need to be focused on. How many times have you seen an organization that tries to sell everything to everybody? Not many… Neither have I… The mapping includes key influencers, their participation and what communities they are part of. It could be a special interest group or it could be a community of practice. If you are a software vendor think about the mapping as an exercise to identify your key target market, the name of the companies, the key influencers within those companies. It really isn’t anything new, the difference is that it is tied to the digital footprint that these organizations create on a daily basis.
Once you have done the mapping, it is time to put a strategy in place to monitor the ecosystem based on keywords that we define as part of our strategy. It could be monitoring specific competitors; it could be keywords with names of specific people or companies. It is all dependent on what we need to get out from the ecosystem and what type of actionable things you want to happen.
The final part of the research is to create a strategy for us to mediate in the ecosystem. This could mean that we participate actively in the discussion or it could mean that we continue to build our competitive strategy based on the findings of the monitoring. It all depends on what we are looking for.
The research that I did today included a deep-dive to a bunch of books that I have in my Kindle DX. I also ready a bunch of good websites, one of them being Jeremiah Owyang that used to work for Forrester but has now started a company The Altimeter Group together with Charlene Li that has also worked for Forrester. Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff came out with an excellent book Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies which deals with social technologies and social media from an educational perspective.
Whatever your approach is to social media, you need to really educate yourself to think about the process and how you apply it to your company. Without this, you won’t succeed and you won’t get your employees to work with you on getting your brand and information out the cyberspace.