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.

Connect with Brian Solis on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook


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    Integrating social media into the current architecture of corporations is Gruv Media’s biggest challenge.

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    Great with disqus..

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    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.

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  • http://www.voupons.com.au/ Allan Fowler

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

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    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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ABOUT ME

Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. He is an avid keynote speaker and award-winning author who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation.

His most recent book, What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold 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. In 2009, 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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