Creating a Digital Ecosystem Map

Over the last five years, organizations have focused on creating a large number and variety of digital assets, platforms, and programs.  This is largely due to the fragmentation of media and the growth of mobile and social channels.  The result is a new type of marketing challenge, as organizations shift focus from figuring out ‘what more do I need’ to ‘how do I ensure that what I have best fits together’.  Enter the rise of a new term (the ecosystem) and new set of visual models (ecosystem maps).  Marketers with large digital portfolios are now using these new models to help visualize and plan how to best use their touchpoints to support various business and marketing initiatives. 

At its most basic level, a digital ecosystem is a comprehensive inventory of existing digital touchpoints.  This inventory should include key details for each touchpoint including:

  • Purpose: Why does it exist and what role does it play?
  • Platform: Where does it live and how can it be found?
  • Priority: How important is it in the short-term and long-term?
  • Customer Value: Who specifically uses it and why?
  • Business Goal: What benefit does it provide for the business?
  • Connections: What other touchpoints does it integrate with?

The inventory is typically organized into a number of categories and illustrated for clarity. This is always where digital ecosystem maps start, and often where they stop.  The real value comes when these touchpoints are organized into models that add context and bring clarity to a specific type of marketing decision.  Understanding the type of decision that you need to make is the first step in understanding what type of digital ecosystem map you need to produce.  The following is an overview of 3 different types of ecosystem maps that answer 3 different types of marketing decisions.


1. Customer Experience Based Ecosystem

This type of map organizes touchpoints into the different phases within a customer journey where they play a meaningful role.  The phases will differ based on the nature of the business, but typically follow the traditional funnel or customer journey metaphor.  These touchpoints can be visualized in a simplified experience map (which Adaptive Path literally wrote the book on).

Questions that these maps address:

  • Are there any specific customer needs at different stages that we can better deliver upon?
  • Are there any business or marketing goals at different stages that we can improve upon?
  • Are there any transitions between stages where we can better progress the experience for the customer?


2. Connections Based Ecosystem

This type of map organizes touchpoints based on the role they play in a marketing program, and their relationship with each other.  These types of maps are particularly useful in campaign and media planning, as touchpoints are visualized according to the role they play within a marketing activation along with any connection points they may have with other touchpoints.

Questions that these maps address:

  • Where do we want to direct customers as part of a marketing program, and in what priority?
  • Do we have enough separation between the roles of touchpoints within this program? 
  • Are we providing customers with the best path to accomplish their goal and further engage?


3. Content Based Ecosystem

This type of map organizes touchpoints based on how they are used to publish a specific topic or communicate with a specific audience.  The topics will differ based on the organization, but should be listed as mutually exclusive and completely exhaustive.  If you produce content on this topic, it should be listed along with the corresponding digital touchpoints used to share it.

Questions that these maps address:

  • What touchpoints are the most appropriate to use for publishing this content or story from the brand? 
  • Do we have any areas where we are too deep or too shallow in promoting this type of content?
  • Are we present in the right composition of media channels to engage different customer targets?

As your digital properties, platforms, and assets continue to fragment and grow, I hope you find these models helpful in starting to get a handle on what touchpoints you have and how you can best connect the dots.