5 Steps to Architecting a Digital Ecosystem with Deep, Robust Social Media Integration

Our digital services team was recently asked the following hypothetical question:

How would you architect a digital ecosystem with robust thinking towards a deeper level of social integration?”

Here’s our best high-level approach to architecting such a digital ecosystem in 5 (overly simplistic) steps:

0.) PLOT TWIST. While this isn't part of the actual process, before we EVER answer a question like this for a client, we conduct stakeholder interviews to ensure we are not operating in a vacuum. Responding directly to a question like this without asking the “Whos? Whats? Wheres? Hows? And Whys?” creates a response that is 100% assumptions-driven, and we all know the adage about what assumptions make..

In 20+ years of working on web projects, I have never seen a healthy digital ecosystem evolve without a solid understanding of the environmental variables that will contribute to an abundant and thriving digital presence. That said, here is a 100% assumption-driven response:

1.) We would want to first review the website and the social media venues for health and readiness. If none of the above exists, we’d start in the planning of those. Wireframes, flow diagrams showing integration points…we want to make sure it’s easy to engage and that the site is conducive to jumping in. Is the client opening to “gamifying” their site?

2.) We’d review the content plan (style guide [voice, tense, perspective, and vocabulary rules]). If one doesn’t exist, we would work with the client to build a rubric that suits their brand and ability (and offer services to bolster their ability if they’re resource-strapped).

3.) We would look at analytics and see what’s getting traction on their site: what are visitors coming to look at, for how long, and what are they doing/where are they going after? If analytics aren’t available, but a site exists, we’ll work with the client to get tracking information for their site so this analysis can be done…in order to properly engage, we have to know what’s compelling (or where they’re losing losing their visitors).

4.) The best, most successful, approach to integration is to blog (check out our whitepaper about corporate blogging). Even if you’re on Google+, Facebook, and LinkedIn, you want to have centralized thought leadership integrated into your website. Whitepapers, Case Studies, Research, Industry Trends…these will attract the best among the audience you hope to capture. You can spark conversations in the outlying venues (LinkedIn, etc.) but you want to be driving to the website and encouraging engagement in the form of social shares (e.g. ShareThis) and Blog comments.

5.) All of this is fairly tactical. The other consideration a longer conversation will discover is how prepared the client’s culture is to embrace a socially-savvy digital ecosystem. Is the internal audience online? Are they willing to stop and post comments when questions get asked on blog posts? Do bloggers have company-specific Google+ profiles for attribution in search engine results? Does the core company leadership value this effort? Many fail to see the ROI and therefore even though there’s internal drive to be social lower down, if the top level refuses to embrace it; it’s probably a lost cause.

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