MAD Perspectives Blog

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 Does Your Organizational Structure Inhibit Social Networking?

Peggy Dau - Tuesday, August 17, 2010

As marketers plan their social media strategy, they usually focus on content, resources and platforms.  I rarely hear anyone discuss organizational structure.  Yet, a company’s organizational model can reveal a lot about how they will use social networking platforms.  The structure of an organization impacts processes and behaviors that will reflect company and employee comfort with the openness and interactivity of social media. 

The primary organization structures are:

Structure

Characteristics

Adoption of Social Media

Functional

-          Employees perform a specific set of tasks (i.e., marketing, engineering, sales, etc.)

-          Focus on operational efficiency and economies of scale

-          Fosters technical expertise

-          Creates silos

-          Communication across silos is difficult

-          Focus on process, hierarchy and control

-          Pursuit of social media  will require planning of  strategy, policy, clear metrics and employee training

-          Social media most likely to be pursued by marketing department only

-          Employees may not feel empowered to communicate socially  

-          Social media primarily used to reinforce outbound marketing messaging

Divisional

-          Employees organized by product or geography

-          Employees perform specific functions within the divisional structure

-          High accountability for achieving goals

-          Communication encouraged across function to achieve goals

-          Little interaction between divisions

-          Hierarchical within the division

-          Pursuit of social media  will require planning of  strategy, policy, clear metrics and employee training

-          Social media effort led by marketing with intent to include other functions

-          Strong interest in gaining external feedback

Matrix

-          Employees organized by function and product

-          Structure reinforces and broadens employee expertise

-          Reduces organizational silos

-          Requires clear communication of goals, objectives and metrics

-          Poor communication can create confusion and/or stress

-          Focus on communication will foster interest in use of social networks as extension of communication model

-          Multi-tasking employees will easily adapt

-          Requires clarity in how social media will support goals & objectives

-          Collaborative environment will easily adapt to interactive nature of social media

 

The focus here is primarily around structure and does not take into account culture or communication style, which was discussed in a previous posting.  The level of bureaucracy in a company may impact willingness to communicate effectively internally, externally or on social networks. You may want to consider the impact of social media on existing organizational structures, business processes and communication methods.  While full scale reorganization is not the goal, education and training may help management and/or employees understand how the use of social media influences the existing business model.

While organizational theory segments company structures into the simple models referenced above, it is likely that your company reflects some mix of the models noted.  Your company’s approach to social media will reflect a combination of cultural and organizational influences.  It is important to recognize the challenges they may represent when building and implementing a B2B social media strategy.

What’s your perspective?