Saturday, October 17, 2009

Guru Speak by Gaurav Mishra : The Experience Ecosystem

Marketing Practice is extremely happy to present a guest post from one of India's foremost social media experts -Mr Gaurav Mishra. Gaurav needs no introduction to the blogging community. He authors a very popular blog at Gauravonomics.com. An IIM B alumnus, Gaurav is currently the CEO of a Social Business Strategy firm 20:20 Social. Gaurav was also a Yahoo! Fellow and taught Social Media at Georgetown University. On a personal note, Gaurav's thoughts on social media has always given me new insights as a marketer.

Gaurav Mishra in this post is talking about the new ecosystem created by the social media and its implication for marketers.


The Experience Ecosystem

It’s an accepted notion now that the brand is realized on the Social Web, in conversations between strangers, who then amplify, quash, or otherwise reshape each other’s 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.

Working within the Experience Ecosystem, the best way to create an experience worth talking about is to design it collaboratively, with customers, employees and partners. Social Applications for ideation, support and expertise-sharing enable such collaboration.

A collaboratively designed, talk-worthy Experience Ecosystem often results in the formation of communities of customers, partners, employees and even citizens. Community Platforms catalyze such communities and enable them to connect even more closely, ensuring deeper connections and even more widespread circulation of positive conversations.

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 use Social Applications -- small, distinct code objects that connect people, facilitate sharing, and enable coordinated experiences -- to tie these conversation threads with other similar conversation threads and leverage 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, customers 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 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 ClickZ column (http://clickz.com/3635116).

Social media monitoring tools like Radian6 (http://radian6.com) and Techrigy (http:// techrigy.com) already incorporate workstream elements. Not only that, Radian6 connects with Salesforce CRM and WebTrends Analytics, apart from Twitter.

CRM tool vendors are also expanding in both directions and introducing social media analytics and community features. Salesforce (http://salesforce.com) now has a full suite of community features including ideation, support and knowledge sharing in its Service Cloud suite (http:// salesforce.com/crm/customer-service-support) and even connects with Twitter and Facebook. Apart from the integration with Radian6, Salesforce also supports integration with the Lithium community platform and the Parature customer support suite (http://parature.com), amongst others.

At the other end, community platform vendors like Jive (http:// jivesoftware.com) and Lithium (http://lithium.com) are also aggressively introducing social media analytics and social CRM features.

In Summary

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.

(Gaurav Mishra (http://gauravonomics.com) is the CEO of Social Business Strategy firm 20:20 Social (http://2020social.com). Previously, Gaurav has held senior marketing roles at the Tata Group, taught social media at Georgetown as the 2008-09 Yahoo! Fellow, and co-founded Vote Report India (http://votereport.in). You can follow Gaurav on Twitter at @gauravonomics (http://twitter.com/gauravonomics) and download the 20:20 Social position paper on Social Business Strategy (http://2020social.com/social_business_strategy.pdf) for a structured methodology for building a talkworthy Experience Ecosystem.)