Confederating Social Media

29 Sep
Geoff Livingston via The Buzz Bin shared by 4 people


Confederate: United in a league, alliance, or conspiracy (image by Geoff Livingston).

Creating social media strategies for large organizations can be unwieldy. Disparate divisions, brands, product launches, autonomous departments, budgets and line items can give corporate communicators a tough time as they bridge their companies into the social era.

Some organizations can manage their organizations well enough to federate their social media efforts under one roof. Now some very basic best practices are arising. According to the Fortune 500 Business Blogging Wiki, 62 of the country’s largest companies are already engaged. But others cannot, and they must look to create a different model, one we have started calling the confederate model.

staralliance.jpgThere are many organizations that simply cannot get all of their parts to agree on a unified strategy. For example, consider national non-profits that have local autonomous chapters. Other corporate structures where this problem can arise include partnerships like large law firms, franchise models that feature local owners and undefined marketing structures, and automobile dealerships (Star Alliance image by Nergiz).

For all intents and purposes, these loosely organized bodies can do what they like. This creates enormous challenges online, in large part because of the disparate efforts can confuse customers, as well as fracture brand conversations. Indeed, a communicator needs to acknowledge that there will always be a healthy majority of internal stakeholders who will never engage in the larger social media stratey.

Building a Confederated Model

Instead of trying to control the social media effort under one roof, confederated models try to empower individual stakeholders in the larger organization. A confederated model for a company or non-profit assumes and includes the following:

  • Lack of control on the local frontline
  • An engaged communicator who will use social tools, regardless of corporate communication activities
  • That same communicator will likely cooperate if they are free to communicate as they like
  • Corporate decides to build a framework of tools for local chapters
  • Tools include social network and blogging platforms, graphics, tagging guidelines, and social media best practice training and guidelines
  • A corresponding corporate initiative that embodies best practices
  • “Wayward” efforts are met with suggestions for betterment rather than enforcement
  • A continuing commitment by corporate to highlight great local case studies
  • A continuing commitment to enhance, better and promote the framework
  • In addition to building the actual framework, a great deal of the effort involves internal alliance building and communications. Local stakeholders need to be made aware of and convinced about the effectiveness of the social media tool sets.

    Of course, what would a proposed stategic model be without a case study? One needs to go no further than the Obama campaign’s social media efforts. This is an ongoing effort.

    Partisan politics aside, Obama’s campaign communications involves intense grassroots activities using social media tools. Tens of thousands of Obama campaigners, advocates and even casual voters are enabled to spread the message.

    At the heart of the effort is activism on more than a dozen social networks, as well as the Obama campaign’s web site. Bloggers using the Obama platform have even posted negatively against policies or Obama actions.

    Not your average political campaign, but one that does fit into the confederated model. The Obama campaign is less concerned about individual flare outs and control, and much more oriented towards word of mouth and viral grass roots activism. The results have been self-evident.

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