So you’ve made the decision to jumpstart your social media efforts. Good for you. You’ve surveyed the scene, understand the relevant communities that have formed and pounded out a pile of useful content to share. But then it suddenly dawns on you: “social media is hard work, I can’t do this alone—what should my internal team look like.”
Good question. One of the most frequent questions I get is centered on how to structure an internal social media team for success. For pharmaceutical and biotech companies, structuring a social media team involves a few wrinkles due to regulatory and legal restrictions. The above is certainly a dramatization of the conversation that occurs, but it’s not that far from what most companies experience. There is often an “internal champion” that fights the good fight, wins approval and then deals with the resource problem later. It’s a survival instinct. These internal champions realize that they are often fighting an uphill battle—one that will only become steeper with additional moving parts.
Admittedly, I am an agency guy. By definition, I am part of the external team (a part that, as you might expect, I think is an integral cog in the wheel). That being said, I think I’ve developed a broad enough view of the landscape to observe the “ideal scenario” and the “real-world scenario.”
If there is a so-called definitive piece of work on this topic, it comes from Jeremiah Owyang at the Altimeter Group. Jeremiah places internal social media teams into three buckets: the tire, the tower and the hub and spoke. Essentially, Jeremiah believes that social media teams either form on the fringes of a company (the tire), centrally located in isolation (the tower) or with a central source that facilitates efforts to relevant departments in a company (hub and spoke). Jeremiah’s conclusion is that the hub and spoke is the ideal scenario for structuring an internal social media team.
My own anecdotal evidence supports that theory. A hub and spoke model for social media teams allows for a more cohesive strategy that cuts across departments. It also provides ample opportunity for a variety of customer touchpoints to get involved in social media. As I have reiterated endlessly, social media should not occur in isolation and the hub and spoke model is one mechanism to prevent that from occurring. It would like something like this:
That’s the ideal scenario, but is it feasible in the real-world? Yes and no. Consider a pharmaceutical company embarking on a social media engagement strategy. It would be great if that company were able to involve all key stakeholders right out of the gate. But the reality is: many will be in “prove it to me mode” first. As such, in a practical sense, the most likely (not best, but probably most efficient) way to start a social media engagement is in the tower model. Generally speaking, that central command will be in corporate communications. Corporate communications, by its nature, sits at the center of an organization and is in a unique position to get access to content. This provides a bit more control, establishes a mission control and sets the benchmark and template for success for those “prove it to me” people. The added benefit of having the tower located in corporate communications is that it can be easily transitioned into the hub of a better defined hub and spoke model.
Social media is in many ways still a developing medium. Because of that, people are so laser-focused on the execution piece they neglect the resources needed to make that execution possible. Social media takes time. It takes resources and it takes commitment. But you don’t have to tackle it all at once. Start with the tower and you’ll find your way to the hub and spoke.