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Social Business Models: Which One Is Right For You?

In a recent article that I wrote for Content Marketing Institute about social content strategy, a reader observed that it is important to develop different social business models to fit different organizational cultures.

He pointed out that companies operating in different countries for example, need a decentralized approach to manage social media in order to allow each business unit the flexibility to carry out a conversation that is relevant to its own audience.

This was a timely discussion. I’m currently attending the 2011 Social Media Success Summit where I heard Jeremiah Owyang of Altimeter Group speak on this very subject.

His research group has been investigating social business models and they discovered that companies organize themselves for social business in five distinct models:

The decentralized model

This is where business units within the organization are not co-ordinated and anybody does anything when it comes to social media initiatives. It is a more experimental type of model e.g. Sun (Microsystems).

The centralized model

A single group develops and executes social media strategy on behalf of the whole organization. It is a very controlled environment e.g. Ford

The Hub & Spoke model

In this model one group sets the social media rules and procedures and then other cross-functional business teams undertake their own efforts to implement social media e.g. Red Cross.

The Dandelion model

This model is used by larger and more mature corporations such as HP and this is where different business units (sometimes in different geographical locations) undertake their own social media initiatives without relying on a central group. It is similar to ‘Hub & Spoke’ but is spread across different brands.

The Honecomb model

This one is a fairly new concept where everybody in the company is independent and is using social media in a safe and consistent fashion. Employees are well organized and empowered to undertake social media initiatives. This is a very trusting and transparent environment e.g. Dell and Zappos.

I personally don’t believe that social media ought to stem exclusively from one group or business unit (unless you’re a sole proprietor). Organizations that have multiple audiences need to make a ‘cultural investment’ in discovering the challenges, preferences and informational needs of all their customers. Then they will know which model is right for them.

Over to you: Does this make sense? What direction is your organization heading towards?

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