From Web And Desktop To Anytime, Anywhere.
In the early stages of digital, businesses first dipped their toe on the Web by launching brochure like Websites which had to be located initially through a browser "URL" (WWW) followed quickly by search engines which organized the Web. Today, the Web and the digital landscape looks dramatically different compared to the Internet's frontier years. For starters, the Web has become mobile, with 1.2 billion of the world's population accessing the Web through a mobile browser. In addition, the internet is increasingly being accessed by tablet or mobile apps and aggregators such as Flipboard and Pulse. To add even more complexity to today's fragmented digital environment, social networks such as Facebook and Twitter have proven that a business must extend it's digital ecosystem into social spheres in order to remain relevant. Today’s digital ecosystem is composed of the following increasingly overlapping areas:
These are the Websites, corporate blogs, intranets and extranets your business has full control over.
These are media properties your business “purchases” in order to drive traffic and raise awareness.
Properties which drive traffic/raise awareness but rely on organic distributions.
Platforms where a business can build a social “embassy” (combines paid and earned tactics) that it partially controls.
Primarily Google, Bing and regional search engines used to find information on the Web (Siri for mobile meets Ai).
Technology such as phones, tablets and the mobile social-digital behaviors they foster.
In short, the Web era which was dominated primarily by stand alone slow moving Websites is gradually though systematically becoming a thing of the past,(this is why Facebook must master mobile). Today, a business must approach the Web from the standpoint of connecting its external and internal "digital ecosystem" which brings together "owned properties" such as websites and mobile apps with social "embassies" as well as a fleet of new platforms from third party providers such as customer reviews or popular social networks. Many businesses will face huge challenges in this area as their large global Website structures were built with dated legacy systems and not architected for the future state of digital ecosystems which the industry is moving toward.
Five Ways To Go From Digital Islands To Integrated Ecosystem
Ensuring that your business is building a digital ecosystem vs. disconnected "islands" means fixing the foundation while moving forward in areas where your business needs to be relevant (social and mobile). Media companies like The New York Times have begun to show the way here as they've had no choice but to optimize their content for a mobile, social, digital world. Professional organizations, brands and corporations are the next in line. The steps below are meant to provide high level guidance and is not comprehensive but designed to provide general guidance:
Perform A Digital Footprint Audit
A digital footprint audit takes stock of all digital, social, and mobile assets (both external and internal) and evaluates them against a set of criterion which is customized for your business and industry. Digital properties should be looked at critically. Are their properties which are outdated or not optimized for search or mobile? Are there properties with unrealized potential? Are some properties being kept on life support when they should be put down? A digital footprint audit takes a wide look at everything your business has out on the digital space and identifies gaps, issues and opportunities.
Implement A Content Strategy
A comprehensive content audit should be performed to determine what content is valuable vs. what's not optimized for a social, mobile Web. A content audit compliments the digital footprint analysis and provides the roadmap for what content stays, what needs to be re-located and identifies gaps. From this, a content strategy should be developed aimed at producing optimized content for search, social sharing and mobile interactions.
Assess Signals Derived From Search And Social
A digital ecosystem is only as effective as it's ability to be found and it's relevancy to current conversations. A conversation assessment looks at what's being said about your business and relevant topics across the digital landscape. It also looks at how effective your digital ecosystem is in sending signals which are being shared across multiple social platforms. On the other side of the fence, a search audit looks to see if your properties are being found in search engines specifically guided by relevant terms critical to the business. Both exercises will provide clues to the question: "is my digital ecosystem both findable and shareable"?
Re-Assess Your Infrastructure
Large complex sites are never easy to maintain, update or evolve but this doesn't take away from the fact that they will need to become more effective at handling change faster. A comprehensive audit from an unbiased and qualified third party may uncover legacy issues rooted in IT which need to be addressed. Some issues may involve updating existing infrastructure and others could require a gradual overhaul of not only existing systems but also partners and vendors. In either scenario an exhaustive audit here would likely be the place to start. Without it, root issues will likely never be addressed no matter the quality of your digital strategy.
Evaluate Current Resources & Processes
Moving from digital islands to a connected ecosystem means taking a look at your existing organizational design. A modern ecosystem requires staff and resources which can manage social properties, develop for mobile and produce valuable content which travels effortlessly across that ecosystem. An organizational process design exercise can be useful in documenting current state and visualizing future state providing a roadmap for how to navigate the changes needed in order to optimize the organization.
Ecosystems Take Time
Planning, building, maintaining and ensuring that you've grown a healthy and integrated digital ecosystem will not happen overnight. Be prepared for it to take time, resources and the stomach to deal with multiple stakeholders from marketing to IT to customer service. The above activities are more likely to be effective if approached globally but executed against with local and regional execution. Digital ecosystems for large businesses will also require the cooperation and coordination of multiple partners in order to realize the potential. The burden of this coordination will fall largely upon the organization driving the initiatives and it's key partners.