How companies can organise for social media success

A lot of people are trying to figure  out where social media fits within their company. Forrester has just published a report looking at how companies should organise to deal with social media.

Forrester has established  three distinct models:

1 The Tire (Distributed): Where each business unit or group may create its own social media programs without a centralized approach. We call this approach the “tire,” as it originates at the edges of the company.

2 The Tower (Centralized): We refer to this centralization as the “tower” – a standalone group within a company that’s responsible for social media programs, often within corporate marketing or corporate communiations.

3 The Hub and Spoke (Cross Functional): Like the hub on a bicycle wheel, a cross-functional group that represents multiple stakeholders across the company assembles in the middle of the organization. The hub facilitates resource sharing and cross-functional communications (via the “spokes” in the wheel) to those at the edge of the organization (or the “tire”).

They recommend the hub and spoke approach. ItsOpen has experience of working with all three different models.

The hub and spoke model makes sense but it can be difficult to put into practice. It can take a long time to build consensus.

The tire is good  to an extent, because we think  it gives a specific unit the opportunity to experiment and this model enables you to move fast.

The Tower has its value, but often it becomes clear that the tower can be most valuable by distributing knowledge across the organisation and by concentrating on itself and how it can embrace social media for the good of its role and the business as a whole.

The executive summary from Forrester says:

‘The biggest challenge brands often have to overcome isn’t technology but managing cultural change within the enterprise. With an ever-increasing number of brands engaging in social media marketing in recent years, companies need to not only be properly budgeted but also well organized. Once brands experiment with social activities, they must then organize from the inside out – or risk not properly staffing or responding to customers. Brands need to integrate social into their companies by developing a safe place for employees to experiment, creating a process to manage and measure these programs, and integrating social into other marketing and enterprise systems. Above all, brands must organize their companies in the hub-and-spoke model [a cross functional team], which allows business units to be  flexible with their social programs – but provides a grounded center that enables the company to act efficiently.’

Fully agree with the Forrester points  about the need for experimentation. That is essential. I take the point about the culture of the organisation. But the fact of the matter is that those companies who don’t change will quickly lose their ability to communicate effectively. A fact which is beginning to dawn on smart CEOs who wonder why their results announcements did not reflect what was written on the carefully-crafted press release by their very expensive advisors.

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