Three Social Media Models For Your Organization To Consider

Who should be in control of social media at our company?

Image by susy ♥.

It’s a question I hear a lot. The answer is not black and white. The answer depends.

I typically answer the question with a question: “What type of organizational structure do you have in place already? Is it departmentalized, decentralized or perhaps networked/coordinated?”

The answer to my question identifies the organization’s core culture. It sheds light on how the organization’s leadership views its employees. It exposes the executives comfort level with control or lack thereof, and how much they trust their people. It also identifies what type of social media approach they will probably use.

Three Social Media Model Options

Jeremiah Owyang of the Altimeter Group discussed models of social media adoption with his Social Media Trends for 2010. One of his slides resonated with me throughout this entire year. It illustrates three types of social media adoption for organizations. 

Image by Jeremiah Owyang, Altimeter Group.

Centralized Or Departmentalized Social Media Model

Most organizations default to this approach. Their organizational chart reads like a typical silo model. Control is maximized. It lessens surprises and allows for a consistent, branded message. With this model, social media usually falls into the marketing department. Marketing sees the social platforms as additional mediums to broadcast their messages.

Unfortunately, their rigid control of social media ignores its power. It does not recognize the human connections of its employees and their ability to influence others. It disregards employees as resources that can impact the growth of the organization. It discounts how employees can leverage their networks. It is not authentic and others quickly recognize the corporate-speak in most of its one-way posts.

Distributed Social Media Model

This model is the least controlled. And it is the most feared by organizational leadership. It is hard to contain. It may look like a chaotic mess as everyone in the company is allowed to chart their own course.

Tweet or not? Write a blog post or not? Post something in LinkedIn or not? It’s completely up to the employee.

The lack of top-down control actually gives social media its power. Employees may rise to the top as they leverage their social networks for the benefit of the company. The organization appears authentic and one that values human connections.

Zappos is a great example of a company that uses the distributed social media model. Companies that also fail to acknowledge social media or plan for its adoption may end up using this model.

Coordinated Social Media Model

The coordinated model is the most effective, simple and powerful. Straightforward social media guidelines are established. They serve as principles, not rules, regulations or laws.

Everyone is invited to use social media as long as they follow the guidelines. Control is shared and leadership trusts its employees to do the right thing.

This approach takes time and monitoring. Its effectiveness is in its horizontal networks.

Which of these three social media models resonates with you? Why do so many organizations fear social media and try to control it?

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