What is Your Social Media Model?

There are a lot of terms and ideas being thrown around in social media these days. One set of terms I learned about recently refers to how your organization deals with the direction and management of your social media conversations.

There are essentially 5 ways that an organization can approach this topic. Which one do you think fits your organization best?

The first one is probably the one that most organizations that are just getting their feet wet use, whether they’ve planned it or not. I’ve heard it called unplanned, scattered, or decentralized. Basically, this model involves everyone who has any stake speaking what they want (within reason) when they want to. It is not structured, has no plan, and is generally fragmented. This model is the most natural starting point for many organizations starting out in social media – it allows for simple growth, allows for experimentation, and often feels the most “real” to the audience.

The next is a common one for companies that have grown into social media a bit more. Called top-down, centralized, or something similar, in this model you’ve got one person/department “in charge” of social media – setting the direction for the organization, scheduling posts, overseeing responses, and generally being in charge of it all. Generally this person/deparment has other resources within the organization to call on for content and for help with the conversation. This model adds consistency and structure, but can suffer a bit when it comes to a nice organic feel and flow – the conversations can begin to have a structured flow to them as well. It can also make things take a bit longer. Imagine eating out with some friends and having to wait for your waiter to arrive at your table and tell you whether it is all right to laugh at a joke your friend told a minute prior.

Somewhat similar to a top-down model is one I’ve heard called hub-and-spoke. The key difference between the two? With the top-down, the central figure is responsible for issuing and approving the content – with a hub model, the central figure is responsible for creating rules, procedures, and standards for the content. Then each department or individual is free to socialize at their own rate and comfort level – within the confines of the structure set forth by the hub. The nice thing about this model is you get the organic feel of the unplanned model – it feels real and genuine – but you retain a good measure of the control and oversight that the top-down provides. The main disadvantage to this model is the time investment required in getting it set up and working properly.

Take the hub-and-spoke model a step further. Large organizations can use a multiple hub-and-spoke (I’ve heard this called a “dandelion”) model with great effect. Essentially this model has one central hub, but each spoke from the central hub goes to a sub-hub, which can have sub-hubs of its own or spokes. An example would be a company with multiple product lines. The central hub oversees the standards and practices for the entire organization, and distributes the authority to govern social media within one product line to a sub-hub. That hub then delegates to various departments (marketing, PR, support, sales) within its own product line. This pattern is replicated for each product line. The advantages are much the same as the simple hub-and-spoke, but of course this model, while taking even more time to set up, offers much more structure (and yet remains flexible) for a large-scale organization.

Finally, we have the model that is most reminiscent to the unplanned. The main names I’ve seen given to this model are honeycomb, holistic, all-in, empowered…the name isn’t important. How it works is. Put simply, this is the model that allows every stakeholder in the organization – every employee, really – be a part of your social media mix. But unlike the unplanned, this model involves each employee playing by a specific set of rules (like in the hub-and-spoke). Think of these employees all being “within” the hub (hence the honeycomb analogy). The advantages are obvious, as are some of the disadvantages. This model is really the “perfect peach” that organizations are trying to reach, whether they know it or not, with their social media. Wouldn’t you love it if every one of your employees was able to easily be a champion of your brand on Facebook, Twitter, and so on, without you needing to worry that they’d make some promise that wasn’t possible, or offend someone, or look foolish in some way?

So – where are you now? Where do you want to be? Not every model is perfect for every organization. Which one is right for you?

Kalvin Kingsley is the Operations Director for KK BOLD and vehemently denies any association with or knowledge of the dandelions in your yard.

Posted on May 16, 2011 in KK BOLD, Social Media

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