Trends: Corporate Adoption of Social Media: Tire, Tower, and the Hub and Spoke

Spending time with large corporations and getting to understand how they adopt social media is fascinating, recently, I’ve noticed a trend, not on public use, but on internal organization.

Unlikes Advertising (which is often controlled by a single group) Social Media is being adopted by many business groups across the enterprise, from marketing, product teams, sales, to support. While not uncommon, social media tends to be a grassroots movement that comes from the edges (where customers are) of the company, where individual users, vertical marketers, and client facing teams exist.

At least three models of social media orginization within a large corporation, which loosely resemble a tire, a tower, or a spoke model.

The Tire
Common to grassroots movements within corporations, adoption happens at the lowest levels at the company, rather than from a centralized group. You’ll see individual business units define their own strategy, pick their own tools, engage their own vendors, and communicate with the market on their own terms.

Common to companies that haven’t put a strategy in place, depending on culture, this could be detrimental as resources are not used efficiently, data is spread on multiple systems, and the right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing.

The Tower
Common in organizations where power is centralized, we may see a central team formed to organize social media. This team defines the policy, best practices, vendors, and tools. This team which will commonly found in corporate communications and supported by PR will often dictate the direction of social media. Expect a dedicated role or sub-group to appear either experiential marketing, new media, or interactive media to eventually be born out of the group, where social media is centralized.

Social media is a grassroots movement, so common dangers can be gagging the natural voice of conversations of product experts with customers using these tools, so a centralized team needs to be more of a support organization to the enterprise, not a controller.

The Hub and Spoke
This coordinated model has a central organizational unit that provides best practices, sets policy, supports infrastructure but encourages conversations at the edges of the company. More about empowering business groups to partake in natural social media discussions without hindering, this group will be more of a coordinator, and less of a controller. Expect to see this model to occur as social media infiltrates every nook and cranny of a business, and at a certain point, a company as an enterprise can’t ignore the raging groundswell.

Cautions to this model, as overly coordinated programs will be difficult to achieve, and may be ineffective to different unique markets that a large company may have. Like the tower, having a centralized group at a large enterprise is always going to slow down natural conversations so focus on empowerment, rather than control.

What styles of adoption are you noticing from large companies?