Finding balance is one of the first lessons for a dancer. As someone who is compelled to move, I remember resisting the commands of my ballet teacher to stand still in one place and focus on core muscles that I was told would improve my balance. The instructor would remind us to locate and engage our core muscles to maintain a strong center (related to center of gravity concept). As I matured (and completed a high school physics class), I appreciated this lesson so much more. With a strong center, I realized that I could push my movements outside of my comfort zone. I could move my arms and legs wildly without falling flat on my face as long as my extremities were connected to a solid center.
The concept of a strong center has interesting applications outside of dance. A strong center maintains connectedness across disparate parts. Dachis Group has observed one of the major frustrations of large companies is the fragmented state of social – each department going out on its own, developing different social tactics, using different social technologies – all guided by different principles and no common strategy. Each department is like arms and legs moving wildly out of sync in different directions. This decentralized structure lacks the important connections between systems that leads to an intelligent network. At some point, the stress and strain of uncoordinated social systems will cause the organization to flail – like a dancer attempting multiple turns without ensuring arms and legs are aligned and coordinated with the central body.
At first it may seem to go against everything social represents to centralize social. The power of social is in the ability to scale the sharing of information without anyone owning or controlling it. What I have learned in my work with clients is that centralizing corporate social strategy, policy and training does not mean social is owned or controlled. Instead, centralizing governance means creating a solid command center to lead the organization and help connect the dots. The edge of the organization can therefore operate with autonomy but still maintain connection and coordination with other parts. Otherwise, the brand is at-risk for social chaos:
While the goal of social business is to distribute social responsibility for scale, the organization starts to flail if it doesn’t operate from a strong center. This social center, also known as the social business center of excellence (SBCE), is a cross-functional team that guides innovation, strategy, policy and training for the organization. The SBCE consists of representatives from each department who come together to collaborate on corporate vision, strategy, policy and training so that ownership is shared and distributed across the organization, not owned or controlled by a particular department.
Below is a visual of how a social center governs while empowering the edge of the organization to take accountability and responsibility for executing.
So many of us are eager to dive into social tactics. The forward motion of execution feels good. Conducting an audit of properties and initiatives, answering the ‘why,’ establishing charters and policies feels like we’re standing still. We resist standing still under the pressures from executives to move the needle and report the results. But taking time to establish a strong center is what’s going to allow large companies to manage multiple moving parts in a way that provides more momentum and power to support the desired results.
Take a look at how your organization is structured for social business. Do you have a social center guiding and coordinating the edge?
I’ve been following the discussion around Forrester’s new blogging policy. In case you weren’t aware, I was formerly a Forrester analyst covering social computing and wrote some of the early drafts of the company’s blogging policy. Now I’m building a strategy consulting practice at Dachis Group and advising companies on social business – wherein policies and guidelines play an important role.
Based on my experience, I understand where Forrester’s management is coming from. Forrester makes their money by curating information and social media poses a threat to its core intellectual property. How? By shifting points of value creation and capture closer to $free. So why on earth would the firm want to encourage their proprietary value-creating assets (i.e. analysts) to support and accelerate the shift? Implementing a policy to protect IP value is a smart move by management.
However, smart marketers know that not all consumers are created equal. Same goes for Forrester’s readers: some prefer syndicated research reports, others phone inquiries, and some favor in-person interactions. Professionally-affiliated, personally-managed blogs – let’s call them “perfessional” – provide an additional engagement channel for employees to support business goals, on consumer-friendly terms. Social media policies must provide flexibility from an employee perspective that permit perfessional engagement – otherwise, companies risk missing a business opportunity.
Here’s where Forrester’s decision appears to fall flat: in its quest for control of employee social media publishing, the company limits both risk AND reward. This is the point that most social media discussion has focused on. Ultimately it’s a business decision and Forrester’s to make, but case history shows that perfessional blogs like Jeremiah’s, Bruce’s, and mine help build both personal and company brands.
I think there’s a more difficult point here for Forrester – some condition in the company’s current culture drove an insider to leak the information to SageCircle. This signals internal dissonance and the uncomfortable but likely fact that malcontent employees need to separate from Forrester. When you’re playing poker, exchanging your cards as the round plays out is just part of the game. Only time will tell if the new policy is a success or failure, based on business results – but again, a smart move by management to protect core IP in the reality of an evolving social business landscape, instead of clinging to purist social media ideals.
Companies must implement policy to manage social media participation and let’s face it – the devil is in the details. To be effective, a social media policy must be tailored to a company’s strategy, culture, process, style, industry, competition, technology, and most importantly – customer needs. You can’t just copy and paste a policy you find on a wiki; you’ve got to understand how policy and guidelines play critical roles in supporting social business.