Digital Ecosystem: Connecting Internal, External Audiences, Data & Platforms

Digital marketing is complex and dynamic.

To win in today’s competitive environment, you must create an integrated digital ecosystem that connects internal and external audiences. In addition, it requires an organizational model to connect disparate people, data, and systems by fostering value creation. By understanding the different technologies of this ecosystem and how they interact, organizations can create a coordinated strategy that maximizes marketing and business impact.

Digital transformation is vital for enabling digital ecosystem marketing. Every global business struggles with scale, silos, lack of resources, software adoption, and disparate data and customer insights. Digital transformation as a business model can help facilitate the connected offerings of several different teams to drive collaboration, sharing of knowledge and resources, and budget. This business model can help foster data literacy, better control of the data, and create new revenue streams.

Enterprise collaboration between digital marketing, sales, customer service, operations, and the field is needed to ensure tight integration across the board. The digital ecosystem also includes external stakeholders, including customers, the supply chain, service providers, and business partners.

Software and cloud technology must be deployed and prioritized when building a strategy for the digital ecosystem. Companies should also think about using artificial intelligence to scale and integrate the tech platforms and how to ensure software adoption. The digital ecosystem involves more than just marketing. While marketing is the engine, the entire organization and technology are the parts that make it run smoothly.

What is the Digital Ecosystem?

If you’re a Gen X’er like me (or if you’ve seen an episode of Mad Men), you know there was a time when brands had all the power not too long ago. They had a platform where they could say anything they wanted, and consumers had no choice but to listen. And even then, it wasn’t much of a conversation as it was in-your-face advertising. This one-way conversation was a huge revenue driver for companies in that era.

Guys like Don Draper had it easy. They pushed marketing messages, and consumers were forced to listen whether they liked it or not. There was no such thing as market competition, Al Gore had yet to invent the internet, and multitasking on our iPhones was not yet a thing. Consumers rarely questioned the claims made by marketers, and product feedback on Amazon Reviews didn’t exist.

That was the digital ecosystem 30 years ago. Marketers had all the influence but not so much anymore.

A digital ecosystem is a network of interconnected and interdependent organizations, people, activities, information, and assets. Digital ecosystems consist of internal and external stakeholders (employees and customers) participating in value-driven exchanges to achieve business goals.

Today’s thriving digital ecosystems must consider three core elements: people, processes, and technology. Digital marketing channels are layered over these elements, the glue of an omnichannel digital ecosystem.

People include internal staff as well as external customers and influencers. A successful digital marketing ecosystem requires a unified team to combine these perspectives into a cohesive data-driven strategy. Global businesses must also understand how industries and customers change to align their goals accordingly. The digital ecosystem is complex, so integrating teams and creating collaboration workstreams is a core success factor.

Processes help businesses to connect their digital initiatives with business goals. This includes developing and implementing an integrated strategy and omnichannel measurement, data, and reporting infrastructure. Processes can also support how products and services are packaged and messaged throughout each business.

Technologies provide the tools and platforms that enable companies to implement a digital ecosystem strategy.

The Digital Marketing Ecosystem Explained

The connected marketing ecosystem applies a “marketing lens” over the digital ecosystem. It considers more than technology and hints at the B2B buyer’s journey in the model.

It’s critical to look at digital ecosystems because it brings perspective on the challenges of reaching audiences online. It also surfaces the opportunities of using other brand stakeholders to participate differently.

The complete digital marketing ecosystem is separated into external and internal factors. Both are important for every organization regardless of the industry.

The complete digital marketing ecosystem is separated into external and internal factors. Both are important for every organization regardless of the industry.

Externally, it’s essential to discuss all the role players and external stakeholders participating in the digital ecosystem. This market could include customers, prospects, influencers, media, retail, and channel partners.

Delivering Value Across the Organization

When exploring the digital ecosystem, showing how the organization provides value to its external stakeholders is essential. They can do this in several different ways.

First, companies need to understand the customer’s needs and market opportunities of their business industries. From there, they need to map their products and services to address the market needs by providing services, tools, and platforms to help solve those technology challenges.

They must also aid the customer down the purchase funnel by providing engagement, education, resources, and customer and sales support. In other words, they need to deliver business value to their customers.

Value always reciprocates. In this case, customers naturally provide value by buying products and services more than once. Happy customers also become brand advocates and tell others about the amazing experiences that they are having with the business. They also provide feedback on improving products and services that can drive innovation.

Surrounding all of the stakeholders are branded communities and customer forums. Not every enterprise company uses these communities, but they are pivotal in driving engagement with external stakeholders. They also produce high rankings for longtail keywords in Google.

The Role of the Social Ecosystem

The outer layer of the digital ecosystem resembles elements of the B2B buyer’s journey. It’s meant to illustrate all the traditional digital and social media channels buyers can access as they consume content and share information.

This includes all social media channels that customers and buyers use personally and for business. Depending on the audience, these channels will change. For example, the B2B audience will most likely spend time on LinkedIn and Twitter. For consumers, it would be TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat.

Social audio platforms are also a key channel for customers. This includes Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces, and emerging social audio apps.

Customers and prospects use social messaging apps like Discord, Telegram, and WhatsApp to consume content, share information, and coordinate social actions.

Technology forums like Reddit, Github, and Stack Overflow are critical to digital ecosystems mainly because there are many conversations about software, several technologies, and general business topics.

Software review sites are pivotal, especially within the buyer’s journey. While these are not necessarily new channels or sales tools, organizations must pay attention to the conversations on each platform.

Internal Factors of the Digital Ecosystem

Digital ecosystems also include internal systems, tools, and stakeholders. The critical role players are employees, the C-suite, partners in the supply chain, and potentially paid influencers.

As mentioned, operational models must be deployed to support enterprise collaboration across disparate and global teams for digital ecosystems to fully realize their potential. In addition, culture, employee engagement, and knowledge sharing are key attributes that make for strong digital ecosystems.

Enterprise value is then delivered to the business through internal advocacy, innovation, process improvement, and ultimately positive cultural impact.

Several employee experience cloud technologies enable connected teams to share resources, capabilities, and value from a software perspective. For example, what used to be called “employee advocacy” is now employee experience because it considers internal factors like engagement and culture with external employee advocacy programs. This includes platforms like Firstup, which acquired SocialChorus and Dynamic Signal, PostBeyond, and Everyonesocial.

From a tools and network perspective, internal collaboration platforms are also needed to ensure the natural flow of information across global teams. This includes Microsoft Teams, Sharepoint, Facebook Workplace, and Slack.

Shifting the Business Model to a Data-Driven Digital Ecosystem

Traditional business silos will always exist. However, it’s essential to understand whether technological changes and emerging market forces will support or dismantle them. If we look at some digital ecosystems, we see that it reshapes how companies interact with each other and their customers.

Customers and the general market call for more open and transparent business practices in every industry. Enterprise companies must be willing to talk about where they source products, share their DE&I initiatives, and share core insights into the culture. Only connected organizations that understand the breadth of the digital ecosystem can do this effectively.

In many ways, this is what new digital ecosystems are all about. It’s an opportunity for brands to build customer relationships based on more transparency and trust. If connected companies can do this, it will improve business outcomes.

Also, enterprise companies that use actionable data insights to fuel the digital ecosystem can create new revenue opportunities through partnerships and understanding customer behavior. Then, they can map those insights and capabilities to inform company and product messaging.

The digital ecosystem model has emerged as the most effective way for large enterprises to transform their businesses digitally. However, the strategies themselves are iterative and not linear. So, while it’s easy to see the path forward and the tactics to implement, it’s essential to understand that while this is an effective way forward, not all businesses will need to build or create a digital ecosystem. However, they will need to participate in one somehow.


What is digital transformation?

Digital transformation is a strategic business growth model that connects internal and external audiences. Successful digital transformation happens when all stakeholders share information and collaborate using technology.

What can business leaders do to drive transformation?

Business leaders must invest in big data, analytics, and digital marketing technologies to increase customer satisfaction.

Digital ecosystems are becoming more connected as new technologies emerge. However, market forces play a crucial role in shaping them too. As business leaders, it’s critical to map your company’s capabilities and know where you fit into the market ecosystem. Doing so can optimize your approach for growth and be more successful.

What are some examples of thriving digital ecosystems?

A few critical digital ecosystems have successfully evolved over the past decade.

As you know, Apple’s App Store allows users to download applications that run on its phone. In addition, the company has enabled outside developers to be successful by allowing them to sell their software to iPhone users, which enriches the iPhone’s value.

Microsoft also has a store where users can download apps that run on its operating system, enabling outside developers to sell their software for use on Windows-powered devices successfully. As a result, Microsoft has begun to evolve into an ecosystem platform.

Google’s Made with Code is a prime example of an open ecosystem approach because it highlights its digital ecosystem’s continuous changes and growth. It’s also one that strives to engage with women and girls who code, helping them see how coding can help them achieve their industry goals.

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Michael Brito

Michael Brito is a Digital OG. He’s been building brands online since Al Gore invented the Internet. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.