The Experience Ecosystem
Companies are beginning to realize that their brand is now realized on the Social Web, in conversations between strangers, who amplify, quash, or otherwise reshape each others’ opinion on the product or service, often based on first-hand experiences. These messages play off against marketing messages pushed by advertising agencies in the mind of the customer, and increasingly, customers are listening to their peers, instead of marketing messages.
The Social Web exposes any misalignment between implicit or explicit expectations set by the CMO in marketing messages and the actual experience delivered by the organization run by the COO. It is therefore critical that the CMO and COO be in absolute alignment, so that the organization (over-)delivers on what the brand has promised, leading to customer delight, loyalty and advocacy.
At the core of this approach is the idea that conversations are driven by experiences. If you want to drive positive conversations about your brands, you should start by creating an experience that is worth talking about.
The Experience Ecosystem provides the framework for creating talk-worthy experiences. It consists of all the touchpoints between the organization and the customer, including products, services and partners, sales and support channels and interactions, and the values for which the organization and its individual brands stand for.
At 2020 Social, it is our belief that the best way to create an experience worth talking about is to design it collaboratively, with your customers, employees and partners.
Deconstructing the Experience Ecosystem
So, the obvious question arises: How do you collaboratively design an Experience Ecosystem that drives conversations and results in close-knit communities?
You start by listening. Your customers, partners, and employees are talking to each other about you, often in public, and their conversations include a treasure trove of feedback about your Experience Ecosystem, along with ideas to improve it. In short, they offer clear signals as to how they will take ownership for the experiences and conversations that will drive your brand.
However, listening is only the first step. You also need to respond to these people and participate in these conversations, not with the intent to direct them in one direction or another, but with the intent to engage them and learn more. Over time, as you track these conversation threads, you should seek ways to build profiles for the people who are participating in these conversations, and identify which conversations, and which people specifically, are the most valuable to you.
Some of these conversation threads will involve responding to and converting prospects who are considering your products or services. Other conversation threads will relate to supporting existing customers seeking an explanation or a solution. Still other conversation threads will be about customers, prospects, partners or employees giving you feedback on your Experience Ecosystem.
In each of these cases, you should try to tie together related conversation threads to unleash the power of collaboration. A prospect considering your offering may benefit from the reviews and experiences of other customers. An existing customer might find that other customers have already shared useful tips on how to solve common problems. Finally, your customers, partners and employees can collaborate to find the best ideas to improve your products, services, and sales and support processes, or design entirely new ones.
Once you have collaboratively designed a talkworthy Experience Ecosystem, you should build community platforms to catalyze the formation of communities, and transform customers, partners and employees into evangelists.
The Social CRM Toolkit is Still Evolving
The toolkit to create an integrated talkworthy Experience Ecosystem is still evolving, but it’s already possible to connect the various activities described above, as my colleague Dave Evans recently pointed out in his October 2009 ClickZ column.
Social media monitoring tools like Radian6 and Visible Technologies already incorporate workstream elements. Not only that, Radian6 connects with Salesforce CRM, apart from Twitter. New tools like Buzzstream are designed for profiling and responding to influencers, and not just listening.
With Facebook, Twitter, OpenSocial and now LinkedIn offering robust APIs, it’s now possible to find or build powerful social applications that connect with other solutions in the toolkit and make sharing easier than ever before.
Collaboration solution vendors are an integral part of the mix because they enable your customers, partners and employees to collaborate and co-create innovative products and processes. I expect enterprise collaboration solutions like SocialText and Cynapse and ideation platforms like Accept Ideas and WebStorm to start offering integration with other applications.
Social commerce solutions like Bazaarvoice play an important role in the ecosystem by converting and cross-selling to customers and we should see such solutions offering more integration too.
CRM tool vendors are also expanding in both directions and introducing social media analytics and community features. Salesforce and RightNow now offer a full suite of community features including ideation, support and knowledge sharing and even connect with Twitter and Facebook. Apart from the integration with Radian6, Salesforce also supports integration with the Lithium community platform and customer support applications like Helpstream.
It’s more important than ever to create a talkworthy Experience Ecosystem and the tools to enable it are quickly coming together. Organizations that develop the end-to-end view described above will use these tools in an integrated manner and win on the Social Web, while those who implement disconnected solutions on an ad-hoc basis will struggle. Integration, then, is the key to winning on the Social Web.
(This is an edited version of a guest post I wrote for the Marketing Practice Blog in October 2009.)
Update: Since I wrote this post in October 2009, I have come across several interesting conversation threads about Social CRM. Here is a selection of some of the most useful resources I have found so far:
– Paul Greenberg puts a stake in the ground on Social CRM.
– Jeremiah Owyang starts a list of Social CRM vendors.
– Fabio Kipriani explains the benefits of social CRM.
I’ll be grateful if you will help me understand the Social CRM space better by sharing your favorite Social CRM resources in the comments.
Cross-posted at 2020 Social: Because Business is Social.
I am co-founder of social business strategy company 20:20 Social. In my previous avatars, I have held senior marketing roles at the Tata Group, taught social media at Georgetown University, and co-founded Vote Report India. Do read my bio and consider interviewing me for a story, inviting me to speak at an event, or asking me to help you with your social business strategy.
- Position Paper: The 20:20 Social Approach to Social Business Strategy
- The 20:20 Social Elevator Pitch
- From Social Media Marketing to Social Business Strategy