Evolving the Social Media Marketing Ecosystem

In January this year I put forward my thoughts on the social media marketing ecosystem in which we operate in 2010. It looked like this:

While this relatively complex model is great to help shape the thinking of organizations wrestling with a plethora of products, it’s also a little complex for organizations without those massive resources. These organizations, which comprise the majority of the market, just don’t have the staff, resources or time to deal with such a complex set of properties.

So, I went back to the drawing board – not to re-think the model, but to boil it down to one simple enough for the majority of people to digest. The result: a simplified model of the social media marketing ecosystem:

All of the complex dynamics within the original system are still accounted for within this simplified diagram, but the framework as a whole is much easier to digest.

In addition to earned, paid and owned media (summarized as “company website” and properties on other sites), this model has an additional sphere on top of Sean Corcoran’s framework, on top of which the original ecosystem model was developed – social networks. This raises the question – should Corcoran’s model have an additional row? What might it look like? (thanks to Joe Thornley for prompting this line of thinking)

It’s a tough call. For one thing, the “social media” row might look a lot like the other rows in many ways; borrowing aspects from owned and earned media in particular. For another, any definition of the role of social media is surely going to be controversial.

I’m a glutton for punishment though, so I put together a starting point – Corcoran’s model, revised with a new row for social media.:

Does social media deserve its own row here, or does its rapid evolution over the past few years simply mean it is intertwined among the other media types in today’s communications environment?

What do you think?

38 Responses toEvolving the Social Media Marketing Ecosystem

  • Ha.

    I actually just made this presentation at Mullen. Way too funny.

    I tend to throw social in with the other media channels because it touches each and every aspect of the organization. It’s tough to classify it as a “defined channel’ because it overlaps with other content.

  • Thanks for the simpler model. Much better : )

    To answer your question — should social have it’s own line. I’m wondering about combining social and earned. Social depends on at least earning your audience and your efforts would be fruitless without an audience. I think it is all earned in some respect, right?

    Your thinking is very much in line with an article I recently posted about the continuing importance of the website in the overall strategy:


    I will add your post to the bottom of mine as an important reference for my readers!

    • I completely agree; that’s part of the dilemma here. ‘Social media,’ in this context, both resides from the company side on what could be defined as “owned” profiles and accounts on these networks, and the effects more broadly are “earned.”

  • I think that social media can have it’s own row, especially since the number of tools available and at wide use is always growing. I will, however, also have to agree with Stuart in that it overlaps with other content. For example: a website or blog (defined as owned) are forms of social media.

    Also, one major benefit that I would like to see included in the SM row, if it were to be added to the chart, is the ability to measure the effectiveness of your actions.

  • Dave

    I would lay Social Media as the foundational block of the simplified model. This is my approach for Samsung Mobile’s strategy as we move into utilizing Social Media as a daily model to support our Owned, Paid, and ever evolving Earned media.

  • Dave,

    I think in this case, social networks seems to be the better label for the fourth row.

    Social media might include any number of items you included in other categories. Blogs are completely owned (unless we turn the comments off and even then …) and neither are some Web sites, which will likely become the portal to all these other online assets. And even then, doesn’t Digg, StumbleUpon, etc. make even the most static Web sites social?

    You’re moving in the right direction in terms of modeling, but at the end of day, do keep in mind that social media is it’s own environment that encompasses all of those things.


    • Funny you should say that – I actually originally called it “social networks” then realized that it didn’t fit with the ‘types of media’ structure. I do agree, though – the term is an awkward fit, and “social networks” may work better.

  • Dave,
    I do agree with others that social media is nothing more than a way for us marketers understand what customers are talking about in regards to our products/services.

    Due to its rapidly evolving nature I’ll probably include it as part of the “earned media” column as the only difference is the ability to respond to the information posted by others. But I think if you separate it as a different type of media, then you’ll be doing the opposite of what you so splendidly accomplished with your ecosystem model: complicating it. Great post! –Paul

  • In the world of social meadia marketing, there really is a big changes, a big improvement by means of making business and getting all things done possible.

  • The challenge with setting social media apart from the other categories is that social media channels are so intertwined with the other categories.

    For instance, a Facebook fan page is, arguably, owned media at its foundation while its interactions are, conceivably, earned.The expectations of the fans of a page are that the page owner will offer up something of interest: in other words, a Facebook fan page that isn’t managed by its owner risks atrophy. Even forums, to some extent, need community management and sometimes encouragement.

    I wonder if perhaps social media might not be more appropriately considered a methodology rather than a specific medium. I’m using the word “methodology” deliberately since you and I have certainly had enough conversations about the ill-coined phrase “social media strategy” for its confusion of tactics with communication strategies. What I’m wondering if perhaps we should start thinking about marketing channels and tactics as having a social dimension.

    Back in the day when “viral” was the hottest buzz word, the means of spreading content were neither as easily measurable nor as fun as the digital medium has afforded us. When we did so-called word of mouth or buzz marketing before the advent of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc., measurement was challenging and expensive, and ROI was even more elusive. Since the best way to validate the robustness of a model is to test it, if we turned back time to when buzz marketing was all the rage (I remember one campaign where we called it influencer marketing), would we have added WOM as a fourth item in the chart?

    Social media, of course, is much more than just buzz. That’s what I love about it. For all its dynamism and multi-faceted effects, I’m still reluctant to position it as a separate class (or species, if you will) of media.

  • Hi Dave – You outlined challenges of social media marketing as lack of scalability, guarantee, and control. Since accountability and measurement are top of mind for marketers, I would love your opinion on a new social media marketing suite designed to solve these issues, launching tomorrow…

    StrongMail has created a product suite that marketers can use to engage with their brand influencers in social channels and get detailed performance measurement and analytics. Check out these live examples of campaigns that are going on right now…



    3. To complete the suite, a campaign management application will soon launch in private beta, to help marketers engage their fans and followers on Twitter and Facebook, with detailed analytics on campaign performance.

    Would love to get your thoughts on this approach…

  • I think, as many of the other comments have said, Social Media is probably too closely intertwined with Owned, Paid & Earned Media to be a separate type – since it can (and does) exist within all 3 of the other rows. A website design for example can contain an ‘owned’ blog which allows ‘earned’ social interactivity.

  • I don’t think social media deserves it’s own row in this matrix. It belongs to a different class of media types that includes print media, broadcast media, outdoor media, etc. I can’t think of an aspect of social media that isn’t owned, earned or paid.

    You could, for example, place earned/owned/paid as rows and social/print/broadcast/outdoor as columns and fill-in the spaces with examples.

    I’m trying to find labels for these two “classes” of media types, but am coming up short…

  • Excellent! Great article, I already saved it to my favourite,

  • Your aricle is very helpful. I have sent your site to my friends. Keep posting great stuff like that!

  • This is really so helpful post for everyone,
    Thanks for this post
    Harish Sharma

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