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20:20 Social Approach to Social Business Strategy: A Position Paper

The 20:20
to Social
September 12, 2009

Gaurav Mishra
Dave Evans

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a Creative Commons
Attribution-Share Alike 3.0
Unported License. Gaurav Mishra and Dave Evans Page 1 of 9

20:20 Social Approach to Social Business Strategy: A Position Paper

Introduction: The Need to Align Marketing and Operations

The emergence of social technologies -- that enable customers to connect and share
experiences regardless of physical location or prior acquaintance -- is reshaping the ways in
which businesses take themselves to market.

It’s an accepted notion now (at least for almost everyone reading this position paper) that the
traditional top down model of marketing is in trouble. It’s no longer enough for an advertising
agency to come up with a positioning for the brand, and push it out to customers through a
mix of media channels.

The brand is now 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 two sets of messages play off against each other in the mind of the prospective
customer, and increasingly, customers are listening to their peers, instead of marketing

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.

The alignment between Marketing and Operations is a critical, but too often overlooked,
element in leveraging the power of the Social Web. The Social Web is seen too often as just
another media channel. It’s not. While a well-conceived presence on Facebook or Twitter is
valuable from the perspective of running targeted ad campaigns or viral conversational
marketing campaigns, that view is inherently limited.

It’s time, we believe, to step up from Social Media Marketing to Social Business Strategy.
"Social Business Strategy" (social technologies + business strategy) is different from "Social
Media Marketing" (social media + marketing) in two important ways. First, when you stop
looking at social technologies through the "media" lens, you realize that content and
conversation are only the first level in what these technologies enable: collaboration,
community and collective intelligence are the other levels. Second, when you stop looking at
social technologies through the "marketing" lens, you realize that their impact goes beyond
merely reaching out to customers, to connecting customers, partners and employees.

In this position paper, we offer a step-by-step systematic approach to aligning Marketing with
Operations, and using emerging social technologies for transforming business, instead of
merely reaching out to customers with marketing messages, through yet another media
channel. Gaurav Mishra and Dave Evans Page 2 of 9

20:20 Social Approach to Social Business Strategy: A Position Paper

The Experience Ecosystem

At the core of our approach to Social Business Strategy 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. Gaurav Mishra and Dave Evans Page 3 of 9

20:20 Social Approach to Social Business Strategy: A Position Paper

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

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. Gaurav Mishra and Dave Evans Page 4 of 9

20:20 Social Approach to Social Business Strategy: A Position Paper

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.

Leveraging the Underlying Social Elements

It is important to leverage the three underlying Social Elements in your Social Business
Strategy. We refer to these as the Social Object, Ladder of Engagement, and Social Graph.

Conversations and communities don’t happen in a vacuum, they coalesce around Social
Objects. Often, campaigns, and even brands and organizations aren’t compelling enough as
Social Objects themselves. So, you need to associate your brand with a bigger Social Object: a
lifestyle, a passion, or a cause. First, identify possible Social Objects, their relative
importance and their inter-connections through something like a mind mapping exercise.
Then, arrange them in a Social Object Hierarchy. That done, it becomes straightforward to
evaluate and select one or more related Social Objects and build talk-worthy experiences
around them.

The next step is to construct a Ladder of Engagement, clearly identifying the various levels at
which customers, partners and employees will be engaged in the Experience Ecosystem. We
use a basic seven-step Ladder of Engagement for the customer: consume content (read a
post), curate content (Digg a video), create content (post a photo), collaborate (edit a wiki),
try offering (sampling), purchase offering and evangelize offering (create a fan page). Then,
we list the expected interactions under each of the seven levels and map them to
functionalities, features and metrics. In most customer-centric organizations, the Ladder of
Engagement for partners and employees is often a derivative of the Ladder of Engagement for
customers. Once the Ladder of Engagement is mapped out, and the infrastructure to enable it
is in place, all tactical marketing campaigns, including engagement and activation programs, Gaurav Mishra and Dave Evans Page 5 of 9

20:20 Social Approach to Social Business Strategy: A Position Paper

effectively serve the purpose of transitioning users to higher levels in the ladder of
engagement. Seen from this perspective, marketing campaigns fit into a broader long-term
strategy so that they build upon previous campaigns.

One way to transition users up the Ladder of Engagement is to integrate their Social Graph. A
user’s Social Graph on a social platform is the sum total of their profiles, relationships and
interactions on the platform. Users have separate social graphs on different social platforms
and connecting those serves two important purposes. The user experience is seamless across
platforms, so user engagement is deeper. Not only that, the organization gets more visibility
into the users’ overall social behavior and can engage with them at multiple touchpoints. It’s
becoming increasingly easier to integrate the users’ Social Graph across brands, campaigns
and social platforms, using RSS feeds, widgets, and APIs.

20:20 Social Approach to Social Business Strategy

In essence, this approach to Social Business Strategy involves asking three questions related to
conversations, collaboration, and community. Gaurav Mishra and Dave Evans Page 6 of 9

20:20 Social Approach to Social Business Strategy: A Position Paper

Question 1: How can we build an Experience Ecosystem to activate customers to higher levels
in the Ladder of Engagement, ultimately leading to trial, purchase, loyalty, and advocacy?

Question 2: How can we build Social Applications to integrate the Social Graph (profiles,
relationships and interactions) of customers, partners and employees, and enable
collaboration in the areas of ideation, support and expertise sharing?

Question 3: How can we build vibrant Community Platforms around Social Objects (lifestyle,
passion, or cause), that are bigger than the organization, brand or campaign itself?

Case Studies: Dell and General Motors

We have used the well-studied case studies on General Motors and Dell because as well known
examples they clearly show the direct application of the methodology and approach we have
outlined in this paper. As with any grounded, analytical method, the real proof comes through
the use of the methodology to predict or drive success. These projects are underway now and
will form the basis for future cases. Gaurav Mishra and Dave Evans Page 7 of 9

20:20 Social Approach to Social Business Strategy: A Position Paper


In January of 2005, General Motors VP Bob Lutz took a then-revolutionary (and still far too
uncommon) step: he launched his “FastLane” blog ( FastLane
earned wide praise from social media practitioners and business executives alike as a solid
first step to reconnect with customers and better understand the issues, opportunities and
trends that were driving potential car buyers to other auto manufacturers.

However, the FastLane blog in itself was not sufficient. GM stopped short of using customer
inputs to collaboratively design its Experience Ecosystem and still risks, at best, failing to
build early evangelists for its next generation of cars, and, at worst, building the wrong cars
altogether. GM is now going further with GM Labs ( where
participants can read about advanced automobile concepts and share their thoughts in public.
We congratulate GM for taking this step and pressing further into collaborative design, but
believe that it still has a lot of ground to cover.


In August of 2005, in an open letter to Michael Dell, which started the “Dell Hell” meme,
blogger Jeff Jarvis wrote: “Your customer satisfaction is plummeting, your market share is
shrinking, and your stock price is deflating.” He was right: Dell was indeed struggling.

To its credit, Dell ultimately listened to Jeff and went about the task of reconnecting itself to
its customer base. Since then, it has implemented the Salesforce-based Dell Ideastorm
ideation community (, started a Lithium-based support community
(, leveraged Twitter as a sales channel
( and built the “Digital Nomads” (
and “Take Your Own Path” ( communities to tap into big Social
Objects: being a global citizen and being a self-made entrepreneur, respectively.

Bob Pearson, the (then) Dell Communities and Conversations VP, who headed Dell’s social
media program, saw integrating social media within Dell as the first step, and using social
media to revolutionize the business infrastructure of Dell as the second step. This ties in
directly with our theme of tapping into conversations on the Social Web to collaboratively
design the Experience Ecosystem.

Conclusion: Social is Not Only About Marketing

In this position paper, we have offered the outline of a methodology for aligning Marketing
with Operations, and using emerging social technologies for transforming business, instead of
merely pushing marketing messages to customers.

We will be delighted if you remember these three highlights from this position paper –

1. Step up from Social Media Marketing to Social Business Strategy Gaurav Mishra and Dave Evans Page 8 of 9

20:20 Social Approach to Social Business Strategy: A Position Paper

Use social technologies, and the value systems embedded in them, in an integrated manner,
across customers, partners and employees, to transform your business and create long term
business value.

2. Align Marketing and Operations to design a talk-worthy Experience Ecosystem

As Dell’s Bob Pearson noted, creating positive experiences directly drives positive
conversations. Listen to and learn from your customers, partners and employees. Use Social
Applications to engage them in collaboratively designing your products, services, and
customer-facing processes like sales and support.

3. Catalyze a community around the Social Object, not the Brand.

More often than not, your brand is not an integral part of your customer’s social life, so don’t
try to build a community around your brand. Instead, catalyze a community around a big
Social Object -- a lifestyle, passion, or cause – and associate your brand with it.

Remember, social is not only about marketing.

About 20:20 Social

20:20 Social is a Social Business Strategy company, serving Indian and

international clients. We add value with our strategic approach and unique
understanding of business, communities and social technologies. Contact at

Gaurav Mishra is the CEO of 20:20 Social. Previously, Gaurav has held senior
marketing roles at the Tata Group, taught social media at Georgetown
University as the 2008-09 Yahoo! Fellow, and co-founded Vote Report India.
Gaurav holds an MBA from IIM Bangalore. Contact at

Dave Evans is the Consulting Director of 20:20 Social. Dave is the author of the
top-selling book “Social Media Marketing: An Hour a Day" and serves on the
boards of several startups. Dave holds a BS in Physics and Mathematics from
the State University of New York. Contact at


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License. Gaurav Mishra and Dave Evans Page 9 of 9

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