Tree Frogs and the Social Ecosystem

Ok, this post has nothing to do with tree frogs, biology or ecology.  But, unlike Seth Godin, my brain only has a limited capacity for catchy, pun-filled blog titles.  I hope you can forgive me for that one.

A while ago, I wrote a post on strategic considerations that the social enterprise needs to address before diving into tactical execution; like launching a Twitter account or Facebook page or making investments in social media monitoring and engagement technology.

Apparently, several issues within that post resonated with folks over at The Social Customer  (i’m eternally grateful for their repost of that article).  So, I figured I’d better explore a few of those topics in further detail.  I’m a visual thinker and learner, so I’ll start with what I referred to in that post as defining your enterprise social ecosystem.  I’m putting this out there, not as any definitive or authoritative definition, but hopefully as a conversation starter where some of you that are a whole lot smarter than I can poke holes in these concepts and make them better. 

Just for fun, Wikipedia defines an ecosystem as the “combined physical and biological components of an environment”. My definition of the social ecosystem is the combined strategic, informational, human and technological components of a social business system. (opportunity #1 to poke holes)  

A while ago, I had started to sketch out a point of view; a picture.  But then I found this example from Dion Hinchcliffe over at ZDNet.  Dion approached this question from an Enterprise 2.0 technology point of view.  But what I found missing was the strategic, informational and human components of the ecosystem.  And so I’ve attempted here to combine some of his ideas with those other elements.  So, here goes (opportunity #2)

I’ll bullet point the highlights.

  • Its pretty clear, and I think most experts agree, that the social components of the web (what we refer to as web 2.0) are an ever-expanding subset of the entire world wide web. so, I’ve captured that here.
  • I’m lumping ecommerce sites that have a significant social component to them, such as Amazon, eBags and Netflix, into the category of Public Social Networks and Communities.  For the purpose here, I don’t think it matters where they are placed between the two
  • This is an enterprise view of the world,  So from that point of view, the ecosystem includes all value chain partners and customers.  Would the picture be different from the customer’s point of view?
  • Within the enterprise, there are several customer-centric 2.0 business processes that directly connect the enterprise and the rest of the ecosystem such as knowledge bases, traditional CRM and unified communications
  • The green arrows represent information flows between the enterprise and the other ecosystem constituents across multiple channels
  • Social CRM, I believe, is not just limited to the interaction between company and customer through the social web.  This is in contrast to the recent definition provided by Dr. Harish Kodadia, someone for who’s work I have tremendous respect.  My opinion (because I don’t have a definition of my own) is more aligned with Paul Greenberg’s – “Social CRM is the company’s response to the customer’s control of the conversation”.  However, those conversations are not just happening on the social web.  so, I’ve attempted to represent that by spanning “Social CRM” across all channels and customer-facing business processes  
  • Also, Social CRM is a business philosophy and strategy, combined with business process and technology.  Therefore, I’ve tried to represent that point here – that social crm cuts across customer communication and access channels and requires a radical shift in the construct of business models that connect the enterprise with partners and customers.
  • Where I differ from Mr. Greenberg is this.  Paul states that social CRM is but a small part of the enterprise business architecture.  I believe, as a business philosophy, it is broader and needs to be woven into the fabric of every corner of the business in order to produce results.

A final foot note on the term “social CRM”.  I don’t like it.  Never have.  The CRM part, that is.  I like the definition and what it represents as a business model.  So, for purposes of general understanding, I’m going with it.  But, since 1987 when I built my first SFA application and first heard the term, its always bothered me.  Customer Relationship Management is a company-centric term that implies the company can somehow manage the relationships with its customers.  And, the most troublesome part; it implies that customers actually want to have a relationship with companies.  Sure, companies what relationships with their customers.  But, again, this is company-centric and someone narcissistic, if you ask me.  I believe customers want companies to provide products and services that satisfy specific needs.  If that means better understanding of the customer on the company’s part, then I’m all for that.  But that doesn’t require a ‘relationship’.  If I never had to speak to companies I dealt with, I’d be very happy.  All that being said, that’s a whole separate conversation….over a beer or two.

Ok, poke away.  Or rip to shreds.  Enjoy.


  1. Some off-the-cuff thoughts (i may respond in detail in a post later):

    1. Your graphic needs a lot of help. There's too much explanation required to make sense of it. I hate giving criticism without an actionable solution…so I may do that later.

    2. Thanks for linking to your post on strategic considerations. I hadn't read that before; it goes right in line with my thinking (and my 'Back to Basics' post post from a couple weeks ago).

    3. I like Dr. Kotadia's definition, probably because it's simple. I believe you know my thoughts on Mr. Greenberg's (more lengthy) definition.

    4. I'm with you on not liking the Social CRM term, but for different reasons. What I've come to learn is the term isn't important, just the concept. It could be called hunkerswaggle and it woudn't matter. The concept, the strategy, the technology that permits all of it is what matters.

    5. You always have a relationship with your customer. It may not be developed. It may not be good. You might never talk to them…BUT you have some sort of relationship.

    Thanks for your post and insight. It's people like you that always get me thinking and coming up with new ideas.

  2. Thanks for the feedback Tim. I responded over at the Social Customer. Assume you saw that. This valuable feedback! Keep on keepin on

  3. I like your points about CRM. Here's one that's bugged me for years: as a customer, I don't take kindly to the notion that I'm being managed by companies I do business with. Semantics? Maybe, but the mindset that inspired the term grates on me.

  4. Agree Ted. "Customer Experience Management" was a bit better. But even then, the perception of the experience is in the eye of the customer. So, while the company may think they are 'managing' it, are they creating a superior one. Even more than creating, "enabling" might be a better term. I think the words are important. Thanks for the comment

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