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Attributes of the Social Ecosystem

The Social Ecosystem*. The Social Ecosystem provides a structure within which all types of organizations live and interact. This ecosystem is open and inclusive of both public and private organizations and remains independent of geography and language.

You and I are in a great place. We are in a virtual room, looking at an empty whiteboard, a whiteboard upon which we can share thoughts, fleshing out The Social Ecosystem for our benefit, and for the benefit of all those that follow. Before we can get to the case studies, best practices, the strategies,and the tactics, we need to spend time ensuring we share a common understanding.

This may feel academic but this common understanding, this common language, should make the rest of the concepts easier to understand and much more powerful.

Lets take a moment and break down our definition.

  • “provides a structure”.

The Social Ecosystem is not the primary reason for this writing. It is important, however, to define and to understand. Within this structure the magic takes place.

  • “inclusive of both public and private organizations”

This point is critical to understand. The Social Ecosystem supports all kinds of organizations. All types of Social Organizations, including individual proprietorships, small and medium businesses, enterprises, local governments, federal agencies, and political campaigns fit within this structure.

Why is this important? Many of the policies, procedures, and tools that are used at companies like HP and Best Buy will work just as well for the Department of Transportation in Massachusetts or a Presidential political campaign. The goals differ but the paths to success overlap.

  • “independent of geography and language”

At the tactical level there are clearly cultural differences in terms of norms. However, the Social Ecosystem recognizes that Social Organizations must focus on delivering value across these boundaries, across geographies and across languages.

We are fortunate that translation tools like Google and Bing translate do a good job translating content on the fly. While not perfect, these translations make it possible for value created in one place to be transferred to another place with a reasonably high level of fidelity.

The Social Ecosystem has two other attributes we must cover:

  • Focuses on the delivery of value.

While many people talk about “content being king”, content is never king, value is what matters. Value can be in the form of products, services, content, or influence. The value is defined by the Social Consumer, the market, dynamically. For example, one piece of content may be considered useless by 90% of the Social Ecosystem, providing no value. However, 10% of Social Consumers find the content relevant, to them it provides value, value.

We will explore this much further when we discuss social currency later in this series.

  • Is channel-neutral.

Social Organizations are focused on delivering value throughout the Ecosystem. Reaching the Social Consumer where they are at any given moment in the manner that is most convenient is all that matters. For example, when the State Department wanted to provide information to citizens in Ghana, prior a visit by President Obama, they chose SMS. Why? In Ghana approximately 3% of the population has internet access, a problem common in many parts of the world. Mobile, which is in use by roughly 80% of the population, provided a better channel.

While many people will throw around words like transparency and engagement, understand that these words are unimportant at the Social Ecosystem level. Don’t misunderstand, we will discuss these concepts as we drill into the Social Organization and the Social Unit, just not now.


* Bob Thompson, the genius behind CustomerThink, suggested that we consider The SocialSystem vs. the Social Ecosystem. Bob is, in my opinion, a really bright guy and I will keep this in mind as we flesh this out.

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Dannielle Blumenthal

This is a little abstract though interesting. What is the difference in thinking from previous perspectives or frameworks that is being presented here? thanks.

John Moore

Dannielle, I agree that this is still abstract and will become less so in time. The key differentiators will be a focus across sectors, geographic and language barriers by focusing on best practices that work in all cases. Many approaches, including social business strategy and government 2.0 fail to deliver enough value and guidance.

These early post do not yet deliver practical guidance as I am in initially focused on defining key attributes and definitions. Once I work through the other two components I will begin tying it together and hopefully, just hopefully, the value will become clearer.