One of the most frequently asked questions in large organisations today is: ”What is the best management structure for our social media activities?“
This rather broad question belies a multitude of important sub-questions: which department should take the lead? What processes should we set in place? What policies do we need? And, how should information be shared? And stored?
It’s probably fair to say that most organisations started using social media without any real plan. Frequently, what began as an initiative of the Marketing department has sprawled into various sub-teams, with Marketing owning certain properties, PR/Communications managing others and various projects, events and initiatives spawning one-off Pages and accounts that often end up as social media ”orphans”.
Yet there are several tried and tested models for managing social media:
Multiple Hub and Spoke
This is the de-facto management structure adopted by many of the biggest brands. The “hub” is a centralised Centre of Excellence consisting of trained experts who can assist the “spokes”, various departmental teams whose social media activities may be completely unrelated, or overlap. It aims to combine the management oversight needed to avoid crises with the openness required to enable different teams to use social media creatively.
Several well-publicised brands, such as Dell, manage all of their social media activities through a single command centre with highly trained staff, expensive monitoring tools and lots of glossy screens. By centralising their activities these companies avoid the management headaches (and risks) of multiple teams creating and managing multiple social media accounts, but loses some of the creativity. To get around this Dell encourages it’s staff to use Twitter and has reputedly trained over 8,000 staff to use social media. Impressive.
Social media pin-up company Zappos is famous for requiring it staff to use Twitter and empowering everyone to assist customers in whatever ways necessary to keep them happy. This holistic approach proved successful for Zappos and, I’m aware, has worked in smaller companies. But most large organisations struggle to muster the trust and, I would venture, staff commitment to pull this off. As the lowest cost, most personal option, it’s possibly the holy grail of social Customer Services. It’s perhaps less relaxing for PR teams.
So which of these should you adopt?
While it’s tempting to pick the model and mould your organisation to suit it – you”re probably best to start with a loose Hub-and-Spoke set-up, but gradually move towards a centralised Command Centre (driven ideally by Customer Services – as with Best Buy’s Twelpforce). In an ideal world this centralised hub will be so successful at training and involving your staff in it’s activities, that you’ll eventually end up with a holistic model – i.e. a safe, highly-professional, dispersed-but-connected, army of social customer helpers.
In short it’s an evolution – from anarchy, to rigorous order, then on to an enlightened liberalism. At least, that’s the theory.