The Best Organizational Model for Social Business

In my research and advisory work with clients the question of how to best organize for social is pervasive. In our 2015 State of Social Business research report, we measured a significant shift from the Centralized model to Hub & Spoke (see figure below), which we attribute to the growing maturity and confidence organizations now have to empower broader use of social outside a core, central team.

If you’re struggling with the question of which model is right for your organization, consider the following key factors:

Social Business Maturity Level

In our report “The Evolution of Social Business: Six Stages of Social Business Transformation”, we identified six levels of maturity, a journey in growth taken by many organizations we work with. Examining our 2015 research data, I confirmed what I suspected: a correlation between overall maturity level and the chosen social business organizational model. For example, looking at Employee Advocacy—an advanced social business program—I found that Hub & Spoke organizations were more than twice as likely to be in the first year of this program than Centralized organizations: 12% of Centralized organizations reached this objective, while 28% of Hub & Spoke did so.

Company Organization

Organizing for social also needs to fit the way your company is structured. Think about shared, mature functions like HR, Finance and IT. Are they centralized? Distributed? Mixed? We usually see a progression, where social starts from the edges of an organization (as opposed to a top-down, CMO/CEO mandate) that is characterized by limited point-to-point connections between groups executing social, but without a single team acting as the “center of gravity” for social business practices. Over time, many organizations: start ad-hoc (often due to the lack of a senior leader accountable for social media); then migrate to a Centralized model, to control organic growth—often leading to many, even thousands of “rogue” pages; and finally to a Hub & Spoke model once an enterprise level strategy and governance system is in place that gives spokes autonomy to apply social to their area.

Company Culture & Risk Tolerance

A company culture that is risk averse, such as financial services and health care, is more likely to be organized as Centralized, while organizations more accepting of risk are willing to organize around a hub & spoke model, which grants autonomy to business units/functions. Even in the case of risk averse organizations, we see an eventual migration to hub/spoke, but it takes time to build governance practices (see our research report “Social Business Governance: A Framework to Execute Social Business Strategy”)

Even after considering these factors, know that your organize will likely evolve over time, as your social business matures and confidence to grant autonomy to departments outside the social team grows.

Organizational Models for Social Business