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Social Media Center of Excellence. More than just a fancy name?

January 31, 2011

Most of my social media efforts to date have been spent on social media activities focused on what’s going on outside of the company. And in some ways you would expect that because social media marketing is very much about finding ways to listen, talk to and support your customers.

But for social media to be a true success, companies also need to spend time taking a good look at themselves to see whether they are ready to succeed in the social media space. The view that “Social media is 1% of 100 people’s job, not just 100% of 1” really rings true for me and makes complete sense when trying to scale activities across an organization.

The question is, how do you organize for this, particularly in larger enterprise companies? And how do you effectively manage social media as more and more people within different departments catch on to this social media maelstrom, and set forth on experimenting and participating, sometimes with little more than their enthusiasm behind them.

This is why I started looking more into something called a Social Media Center of Excellence (SM CoE); a concept I believe was pioneered by those savvy folks at Intel. Admittedly the name, “Social Media Center of Excellence” does sound a little pretentious, but I have no better alternative to offer up, and since it seems to be a well recognized term in the industry, I’ll leave it be… for now!

Anyway, it is more the thinking behind the SM CoE that is important. It basically brings together a group of cross-functional representatives from key departments (EG: Marketing, Marketing Communications, Web, PR, Customer Service etc.) who act as a focal point (hub) to all of the different departments (spokes) within the company. It seems from research carried out by Altimeter Group, that this “hub and spoke” approach is becoming quite popular amongst enterprise companies.

Personally, I think the SM CoE is a great way to get buy-in from key representatives of different departments so that they feel (and are) a part of the decisions and process, rather than just being dictated to. And as they build up a common understanding, they are perfectly placed to be the social media spokespeople within their own groups.

When I started up our company’s SM CoE earlier this year, I had four main objectives in mind (keeping in mind that we don’t have a full-time Community Manager, let alone a Social Media department):

  • Align social media goals, social media policies and measures
  • Foster better communication between all key contributors
  • Better coordinate company-wide social media efforts
  • Increase social media education by providing a forum to openly discuss ideas and insights

It’s still early days, but so far the SM CoE has been a positive step forward in improving communication and understanding in general, and also serves as a good reminder that social media needs to be about inclusion, not exclusion, if we are to succeed.

From → Social Media

  1. winfried permalink

    Hi there,
    recently came across an article explaining that most larger corporations see more opportunity for Social Media applications within the company than in the communication with customers. Improving competitiveness can result in the same way or even better in improved business performance than outbound marketing.

  2. I am also in the process of implementing a SM CoE at the college I work at. Right now we will have reps from Alumni, Communications, Recruitment, Education Technology and Advising.

    The goals that you indicated seem to be consistent and ones that we’ll be aiming for.

  3. When setting up a SM CoE in an organization, how much authority does the center really have?

    • Can a CoE ever have complete authority over social media? I guess it depends, but in most cases probably not.

      For us, what I’ve found is that we are not there to dictate, rather to provide guidance on the best practices and approaches that users should take. Having key representatives from each department/group always helps to get the right support and encourage the right behavior.

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