Rethinking the Future of Business Part 2: Building the Framework

In part one of Rethinking the Future of Business, we examined the state of social media in business. Once again, we take a look at a recent report published by Altimeter Group’s Jeremiah Owyang,”Career Path of the Corporate Social Media Strategist.” As part of a study on social media strategists and the divergent career paths that lie ahead, Owyang reviewed the social framework for socially renowned enterprise businesses as well as corresponding strategies and resources for 2011. The results says more than we may realize at first blush. Most importantly, we’re given a looking glass into the genesis of a next generation business that’s more sociably aware and responsible.

Divide and Conquer

How a business embraces social media and ultimately how it organizes resources around engagement is directly tied to the internal influence of champions and the culture of the business. This discussion accounts for almost the entire second half of Engage. This is a critical discussion that will help businesses excel today and over time. That’s the impact of new media, it’s always new. Social media is simply the latest chapter in its evolution and its effect on business and society.

In his report, Owyang  shares five ways companies currently organize for social media.

Of the 150 businesses Altimeter examined, 41% employed a Hub and Spoke model to support social media. This framework represents a centralized resource for guidelines, governance, best practices, and policies that supports cross-functional teams and business units. In my experience, I’ve also observed the hub and spoke model across most of the businesses I’ve helped. Many times, the hub is represented by a special unit, usually a social media task force or board of advisers made up of stakeholders. This team usually reports directly to the CMO or CEO or in some cases an executive vice president and its members consist of HR, Legal, Marketing, Sales, Customer Service, etc. However, these organizations are rather far along in the new media adoption cycle. And, it should be said, that this is only one stage in the maturation of a social business.

For the more evolved and experienced organizations, the Hub and Spoke model scales to what Altimeter refers to as the “Dandelion” or the multiple Hub and Spoke model. While only 18% businesses are currently structured to support social, we start to see the fluidity of such a schematic. A centralized system allows for effective top-down leadership as well as amplifies the need for harmony and direction.  When we combine the two Hub and Spoke models, 60% of participating organizations represent the foundation for a  majority of social businesses.

Centralization is a key theme in the lion share of participating businesses. 28.8% of companies manage social media in one department, similar to that of corporate communications.  In my work, you’ll see a fusion of the multiple Hub and Spoke archetype combined with this centralized approach.

Altimeter found that almost 11% of organizations are not yet structured around social media. Instead, social is decentralized and this sets the stage for chaos and brand dilution.

Of all of the companies interviewed by Altimeter, only 1.4% claim to run social media from a Holistic methodology.

Considering the level of sophistication combined with varying roles of the social consumer,  perhaps the framework for the future of business looks a bit like this…

The executive management team responsible for the direction of the brand is of course at the center. But now we’re adding a centralized hub for social excellence between executive layers and business units. This model empowers the existing management and execution roles within each division to introduce social elements as they apply to each unique circumstance while still centralizing the resources and intelligence necessary to guide stakeholders. This hub protects the company’s mission and purpose to ensure brand integrity in new media. And, this new resource center maintains best practices, sets policy and governance, introduces new methodologies and guidance, and also provides the training and technology necessary to achieve desirable outcomes.

From Bottom-up to Top-down and Outside-in to Inside-out

Businesses are approaching new media differently and no one formula prevails. But it’s less about what is and more about what needs to be. Social media introduces new or long forgotten elements that serve as the foundation for relationships and affinity.  Over the years it seems that the world of business and media placed process roadblocks, technology and automated intermediaries between the brand and the people who define success. While social media is not the only banner for change, we are given a new opportunity to renew the mission, purpose and commitment to the communities of people that represent our markets.

Culture and leadership are at the root of adoption and ultimately how the organization embraces change. It’s not easy. The truth is that the bigger an organization is, the greater the challenges, and politics, to introduce change. But that doesn’t mean that we should cower in complacency.

Our opportunity is to introduce collaboration internally before we can do so externally. It’s the difference between remodeling and rebuilding.

Businesses must look within in order to clearly see what’s required. What we’ll learn, is that the business of tomorrow takes a human touch and social media are stepping stones to a new era of collaboration both internally and externally. Businesses will have no choice but to lead and respond as the rise of the social consumer upsets the balance of power between brand and customer. It’s up to you to ensure that the organization adapts accordingly. Your experience and vision are instrumental in designing an org chart and workflow that integrate the roles of listening and engagement departmentally and across the company.

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  • http://www.newmediabrief.tv/ Ramon B. Nuez Jr.

    This is a very nice read. It is interesting to see how a company can establish itself within a framework. Now I am assuming that a company will move from one framework to another? Would this migration be considered an evolution or devolution? I am assuming it would largely depend on which framework the company wishes to adopt?

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Hello Ramon, yes. Culture plays a role in the transformation, but what’s clear at the moment, is that a centralized unit for education and governance seems to help the rest of the organization operate as one.

  • http://trafficcoleman.com/blog/official-black-seo-guy/ Black Seo Guy

    Brian we all need to rethink our steps so we can be a better company in the future..

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      This is true.

  • http://twitter.com/hyounpark_AG Hyoun Park

    This is the start, but companies have also been trained to hire for “skillsets” and then for the vague concept of “fit”. They need to take the next step of actually figuring out which employees are capable of representing the company and its best interests on an ad-hoc basis. Of course, this is more difficult when companies don’t provide employees with enough information to know what the end goal really is, so either you end up having to 1) train employees to work in such a top-down process-filled environment that they can’t be as agile as the employee, 2) figure out which employees innately make the same decisions that a company would do, or 3) create a business that is open enough to allow capable employees to step up and truly be the face of the company.

    We all know about the problems of approach 1, but it’s amazing how many companies choose approach 2 rather than approach 3. Social business is ultimately about putting company decisions back in the hands of actual people rather than a fixed written policy, at least until machines become smart enough to actually keep up with the social reactions of customers and employees…

  • http://www.magento-themes.jextn.com Magento Themes

    Its always good to change the strategy every 3 months once or 6 months once, so that we can cope up the market situation and to improve ourselves.

  • http://www.bilal.ca Bilal Jaffery

    The evolution of business will require a social infrastructure — within the org and externally in the ecosystem. Social software, ROI, a proper framework makes all the difference.

    @BilalJaffery

  • http://www.gruvmedia.com Terry Kerr

    Integrating social media into the current architecture of corporations is Gruv Media’s biggest challenge. We spend a lot of time working with executives to create model that they will a). accept and b). has the greatest chance of achieving success.

    Great work Brian! Thank you.

  • http://twitter.com/dhgate DHgate.com

    Excellent piece again. These are some of the best pieces on social media and coprporate influence I’ve ever read. Take a bow, Mr. Solis.

  • http://www.symfonicmarketing.com Stacy

    Love this write-up Brian because I am such a believer that companies now have to look within before they look out. It’s one of the principles Symfonic Marketing has been evolving from over the past few years. I’ve even given it a description of sorts…helping companies align, and shift their marketing communications to deploy customer-centric environments inside, and outside of their organizations. Our site http://www.symfonicmarketing.com clearly defines our version of generosity marketing, and it’s strategy for growth. Thanks for making us smarter Brian, and have a great day!

  • http://www.prscoup.com Gabe Chesman

    Another masterpiece. I’m not sure which part (1 or 2) I like better. Thanks, Brian!

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  • http://invisibleinkdigital.com Invisibleinkdigital

    One also has to entertain the possibility that one size will not necessarily fit or be suited to all. Rather corps of various sizes, with differing attitudes to risk and internal culture will adopt their a preferred model or potentially a blend.

    What you’ve articulated, building on the great work of Jeremiah, is perhaps a viable roadmap to applying a mature social media strategy.

  • http://twitter.com/albert_borrero Albert Borrero

    Cutting the middle tier is the essence of being social. The article is right on the nose.

  • http://twitter.com/AbbasAlidina Abbas Alidina

    @Brian: Every (r)evolution starts from the bottom-up. You mentioned that Social Media has not been the catalyst that you envisioned back in 2006. But I think you’ve selling yourself too short here. You’ve provided support and a home base for social media champions around the globe.

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    Yes considering the future of the business the frame building should be done.

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ABOUT ME

Brian Solis is principal at Altimeter Group, a research firm focused on disruptive technology. A digital analyst, anthropologist, and futurist, Solis has studied and influenced the effects of emerging technology on business, marketing, and culture. Solis is also globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders and published authors in new media. His new book, What's the Future of Business (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold and flourish in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. Prior to End of Business, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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