Prototype, Test, Iterate the Social Experience


The fourth of the 5 themes on the future of social is admittedly the one that interests me the most. This is where things get concrete and specific with operational execution — we understand why we're doing this, we know who does what, and here is what the experience looks like.

Visualize the social experience you engage in and provide as a prototype, regardless of the level of maturity you and your organization have reached in social.

The minimum viable product could be:

  • getting in the game — figuring out how to break the "we're dabbling" impasse while at the same time collecting useful data about how you're doing the first 90 days
  • or it could be taking coordination to the next level — what needs better automation, what needs greater human attention?

Lack of results is typically due to one-off tactical implementations not organized to collect the feedback necessary for knowing what needs improvement and/or change.

It goes beyond what people say to what people do… with the information, the social artifact, the interaction, etc.

Prototype, Test, Iterate the Social Experience

As it is with the evolution of business, there is also a scale of readiness and maturity for social integration. The higher the commitment, the greater the results and organizational impact. So your commitment is the first ingredient.

Even though your objective is to move a business needle to justify the use of people and technology resources, there are still small tweaks you can make to your early (mostly free and in your spare time) efforts to increase value to the business.

The nature of your commitment will change along the maturity spectrum and take you and your team from a more tactical set of tasks to an increasingly strategic role in shaping value exchanges for business and its relationships.

Here is what happens to your prototype as you progress along the maturity continuum.

1. Dabbling — small and occasional or planned attempts at social

Generally personal in nature, at the bare minimum these are ad hoc shares of interesting content using free technology and public social networks to try them out. There are no management tools in place, however there are passion and curiosity to learn motivating action. When the organization puts in place restrictive policies, the value to the business can range from very low to (potentially) negative.

2. Testing the waters — purposeful involvement by a couple of groups

This is where roles emerge and typically the communications group (internal and/or external), customer service, and human resources start organizing around documenting who is talking about the brand, where to reach out to customers with support, and mining the social networks of existing employees for recruitment. It is still reactive and teams often make use of open source technologies and tools using existing platforms. Brand awareness is the main goal. Basic analytics and tracking are put in place. The purpose is there, however a business case is needed to evolve functionality via greater investments.

3. Coordinating — driving positive results through a more centralized approach

When marketing gets involved the level of experimentation with content, A/B testing, and coordination with search and analytics goes up. Role ownership becomes more defined, and the use of software automation tools becomes more common. Marketing sees the value of getting beyond brand awareness and works to increase reach to drive traffic to campaigns and programs.

4. Scaling — creating intradepartmental collaboration, making it part of everyone's job

This is where things start getting interesting and at the same time more complex when not managed well. Participation is there, employees are engaged throughout the organization, formal governance is in place, and the programs are ongoing and proactive. The critical elements of reaching scale are advanced analytics, integration/adoption by brands, and the ability to drive conversions through smart use of data and content. Which is why core tech upgrades become funded and implemented, along with corporate standards.

5. Innovating — building the next idea, together

Within the organization, as well as outside its (fire)walls. The most strategic phase, here's where the prototype becomes product and service that systematically helps solve for R&D applications, streamlining processes, and creating or affecting substantial cultural shifts. Focus, involvement, and use of the most appropriate tools are part of this phase to produce positive, measurable impact on the business consistently — and provide new service/product prototypes for testing and iteration.

Note: this all sounds quite reasonable and easy to do. Whenever you have people involved, affecting the way things are done here, and budgets in the way of tech, training, and tools investment, there needs to be solid proof and justification for that prototype to be iterated upon and taken to the next step.

That said, the progression in implementation is possible only with a commensurate investment in commitment. The greater the appetite for strategic, the higher the level of discipline required to make it stick — and work.

It starts with one step

However daunting higher stakes may seem at the beginning, it is by creating that initial minimum viable product, taking that first step, that you and your organization can start on the social experience.

It will change the way you look at relationships and affect your culture.

The greater the commitment, the bigger your impact.

See you on Friday, September 13 at 11:30am-5pm to discuss the future of social with Frank Eliason, Augie Ray, and Marc Monseau. See details here.


Previous themes: what customers want, the data overlord, and find the R spot and make marketing sexy again.



Valeria is an experienced listener. She designs service and product experiences to help businesses rediscover
the value of promises and its effect on relationships and
. She is also frequent speaker at
conferences and companies on a variety of topics. To book her to speak click here.

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