Seven reasons why companies should decentralise social media

Is your organisation truly social?

This was one of questions raised at the 2012 International Social Media and PR Summit in Amsterdam. Edelman Digital‘s Marshall Manson presented three models for creating social organisations.

The first was the centralised model we are all familiar with. Social media is managed by a central division and provides the official voice of the organisation in each channel. We like this model because it’s relatively easy to manage. But let’s face it – it’s not very social. Too often social media is seen as a channel for promoting key messages (yawn).

I think the centralised model has become out-dated. As Marshall pointed out, we now live in a world where regular employees and ‘a person like yourself’ have more credibility – and therefore influence – than CEOs. So, let’s empower our regular employees to have a corporate voice.

Marshall presented two decentralised models – and it’s this type of model that really intrigues me. Imagine the central division being surrounded by employees who are building social relationships and online communities. There is two-way flow between central division and these trained brand ambassadors, who are blogging and tweeting and engaging people with the brand in different ways.

Disney uses a decentralised model and Disney Destinations’ social media director Thomas Smith said all Disney’s senior managers blog. One manager is in charge of floral arrangements at Disney. So she blogs about flowers. And guess what? She has built a social community of people who love flowers and now engage with the Disney brand because talking about flowers has made it relevant.

What are the benefits of a decentralised model?

1. More brand noise

How does one official twitter account compare with 25 brand ambassadors tweeting? Enough said.

2. More compelling content

With employees blogging regularly about their areas of expertise, your company will produce more diverse, interesting content. Content is still king. With two-way flow between central division and your brand ambassadors, imagine all the fresh, compelling content available for your marketing strategy.

3. More relevance

A decentralised ‘many voices’ model enables your brand to connect with people who may never have engaged otherwise. Relevance is key in the social world. Disney makes a great case in point.

4. More savvy employees

Social media training is critical to this model. Dell’s Simone Versteeg said the company has two types of employees – those who are official brand ambassadors and those who are just plain social. Employees choose what they want to be and there are guidelines and training for both.

5. More speed in a crisis

We no longer have the luxury of time in crisis communications. What happens if the employee responsible for the official account is at lunch when the 140 character news breaks? Your trained brand ambassadors will be monitoring social networks too and can quickly be the voice of your organisation.

6. More feedback

A recent survey found 70 per cent of social media complaints are ignored. Using a decentralised model enables employees to engage in direct social dialogue with consumers. Why do we want to respond to feedback? To improve the way we do business.

7. More innovation

Employees may have very creative ideas for social media. Dutch airline KLM, for example, has introduced an opt-in service enabling passengers to select their seat based on shared Facebook profiles. Imagine all the social ideas your employees have right now that you can experiment with.

What are your thoughts about using a decentralised social media model?

This article was originally written for Trevor Young as guest post for his PR Warrior blog. Here’s the original post: Seven reasons why companies should decentralise social media. I recommend you follow @trevoryoung on Twitter because he’s awesome.

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