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  • Larry Gregory

Ecosystem Activation – Connecting with Developers

The HR Leadership Forum theme for 2012 is Innovation.  The premise from yesterday’s presentation was: collaborating with customers on product/service evolution is an advanced approach toward innovation.  In my view, this makes sense in context of startups and new ventures within an enterprise.  However, there is still a more fundamental need to better engage the ecosystem by actively listening, participating, and influencing perception. Several of the HR leaders I spoke with were seeking how to gauge customer sentiment, learn from the collective feedback, and protect from negativity in social media channels.

From an ISV platform perspective, developers are the key ecosystem to influence.  They leverage your SDKs and service endpoints within customer and partner organizations.  We want to drive greater familiarity with your company and offerings among developers because they enable integration and can cause friction if they prefer other solutions.

The Advise stage of partner development for Ecosystem Activation is about connecting with your target audience.  It is important to invest appropriate time and energy up front, to be perceived a member of the ecosystem.  If you communicate without context or are perceived as pitching your wares without establishing a balanced viewpoint, you’ll actually drive dissatisfaction among your target audience.

Connecting in social media starts by having value-added contribution to online discussions.  This activity often bridges technical pre-sales (or evangelism) teams and marketing.  Technical staff will better relate to developers and you’ll want marketing manager involvement to monitor, measure, and guide the messaging (e. g., provide core talking points for new releases).  There are a range of online channels where you can influence sentiment by listening, learning, and sharing.  Examples include:

  1. Webcasting: videocasts and podcasts can serve as a platform for telling customer and partner stories that support your product themes.  An example would be to podcast onsite at industry events.

  2. Blogs: product-specific blogs provide efficient transparency on your development process and can be a good source of customer/partner feedback.  Monitor industry blogs that your partners frequent.

  3. Social networks (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn): provide ways to create and communicate with communities of fans.  Be part of the discussion around emerging trends.

  4. Community discussion/review sites: monitor sites that review products in your category and engage reviewers/commenters appropriately.

You can measure Connect activity by tracking visits to your own properties, but more interesting is your communications reach into 3rd party channels.  If you’re able to capture and aggregate customer/partner feedback from these interactions, it will better inform your future product/service evolution while also positioning you as an “active listening” company.

The key point for the Ecosystem/Advise stage is to connect with them, be a part of their community, and establish a level of trust that lets you have an informative point of view toward your company product/service releases.  You’re seeking credibility at this stage so you can draw individuals into the Engage stage.

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