One of the many interesting topics of discussion we get into in our Social Business Strategy workshops is around the social ecosystem. This is the name I have given the collection of business capabilities potentially enhanced by one or more social technologies.

First let me define social technologies. Note I’m using the word “technology” quite deliberately in place of the more common term “social media” because social media is too often associated with consumer-facing technology as deployed in support of marketing. In defining the entire social ecosystem I prefer the more generic “technology”. I define social technology as “any technology that enables one-to-many communications in a public forum (or semi-public if behind a security firewall)”.

Oh, I can already hear you thinking, ‘but wait, doesn’t that include email?’ I’m aware that this potentially includes email – while email is technically a social technology, for the purposes of social business strategy I prefer to omit email from the discussion. So this definition happily includes things like Twitter, Facebook, Yammer, Meetup, LinkedIn, YouTube, TripAdvisor, Blogs, Community Forums, Wikipedia, Discussion Boards, employee collaboration communities, ideation communities, and many more, including social technologies as yet undeveloped.

OK, so now you understand what I mean by social technologies, what do I mean by the social ecosystem? Well if you consider all of the business capabilities that these technologies have the capacity to enhance you might end up with a picture that looks something like this:

This illustration helps open up our thinking to see how social technologies might influence many parts of our business capabilities. As we begin to layer in other elements of the customer data flow not included here, such as capturing responses to digital marketing campaigns, we can see how this ecosystem quickly becomes very complex and interdependent.

By thinking about the social ecosystem in this way, we begin to see how developing a comprehensive approach toward social technologies opens up the potential for much deeper customer insight and a richer customer experience.

As I look for examples of companies developing their own social ecosystem, I’m interested to hear your thoughts on this: has your organization begun to think about using social technologies as part of a social ecosystem or are you still thinking of social technologies as point solutions to a marketing or collaboration challenge?

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