Can Social Media Help Overcome Business Silos?

hub and spoke wheel Social media touches every aspect of a business. Whether it’s sales, marketing, information technology, customer service or human resources, functions throughout the enterprise can benefit from social media tools.

What question comes up most often for these businesses? It’s how best to organize to maximize the potential of social media tools, especially for fostering conversations with stakeholders.

As organizations mature in their understanding of the potential of social media tools, a trend taking hold is the increasing integration among functional areas. Where early social business efforts may have lacked co-ordination, organizations today are migrating toward more sophisticated models.

The Altimeter Group’s Jeremiah Owyang, an industry analyst, has shared five models based on a survey of 140 social strategists in November 2010.

Top model
At 41 percent, he found most companies are organized for social business in what he terms “a hub-and-spoke model.” Of these, 82 percent self-identified as “formalized, mature or advanced.”

Serving the functional areas of the business, or spokes, is a center of excellence. This central role allows for sharing of best practices and information across functions.

Many companies look to corporate communications or public relations to fill this role. Owyang offers this tip: The role is meant to be an enabler, not the social police.

The center of excellence, or hub
According to social media strategist Sally Falkow, because of their focus on strategy, brand management, as well as media and stakeholder relationships, public relations professionals are uniquely positioned to lead their organizations’ social media initiatives.

She notes that a PR professional already has the skills for content, story, news and community building, as well as reputation management.

If you’d like to learn more about the five Altimeter models for how companies organize for social business, here is a great overview from Jeremiah Owyang with detailed analysis on the drawbacks and advantages of each.

He notes one size does not fit all and generously offers discussion questions to help you analyze your organization’s unique needs.

Has social media helped eliminate silos in your organization? Have you seen other organizational changes as a result? Please add your thoughts in the comments section.

Many thanks to Velo Steve for the wheel photo via Flickr.

You might also enjoy Best Practices for B2B Marketers Still Emerging.

About creativeconsiderations

Christine Sullivan is a communications strategist with expertise in communications planning, writing and content development, and executive communications. She can be reached at
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