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A question of structure — originally posted in conflict of voices

I recently rejuvenated a blog I had started 2 years ago. This is my first post at the new location conflictofvoices.blogspot.com.
After more than a year of research and observation I still haven’t found the definitive answer on the most effective way to use social media.

I’ve read the expert’s books, listened to lectures and watched presentations on some corporate efforts. All were informative, some exciting, some boring and some ultimately risky.

I get most of it. I see the benefits. I see that every day of planning with no action is another day of falling behind the competition. Something most companies cannot afford. So they jump in with a partial plan with little thought of structure.

That’s what I’m trying to wrap my arms around. How does a big organization structure its social media efforts, or does it even need too?

There isn’t as much need for structure when only one or two divisions of an organization are in the social media atmosphere, but as more divisions want to toot their own horn the less defined the organization’s identity becomes, and the organizational message is lost in the shuffle of the IT message, marketing message, research message, etc.

In some cases it seems they are competing with each other instead of the real competition.

Instead of building organizational support they build support for their one little area of control. It’s no longer about what the organization does but what I or we do in our own little box.

So how does one structure the social media effort to maintain the organizational brand and stil let the divisions have a sense of their own identity.

The Air Force seems to have built a good model with their web pages, even if they don’t always follow through. It’s a structure that could probably be used in social media as well.

There is definitive identity to Air Force official web pages and an obviously tiered structure. They look the same with a few tweeks here and there to provide specific divisional identity. Air Force content is shared with Command content and Wing content. Information moves seamlessly up and down the hierarchy or links the reader to another division on the other side of the world, but rules and standards allow for the local message to be voiced without over riding the corporate message.

The organizational name is branded on every page, with the division and further subdivisions branded as well.

The reader can choose the depth of information he wants but is always brought back to the fact that this is part of the Air Force.

Social media needs can be addressed in a similar fashion and may just be useful to other organizations trying to wrap their arms around the incredible collaborative power of social media.

Let your divisions have their own Facebook pages, but ensure rules apply that keep the corporate message and logo linked to the overall dialogue.

Establish rules for redirecting fans via good content and links back to corporate sites or other division sites that may be working on the projects from a different angle.

Let them tweet all day. Again, ground rules though. Established hashtags and tiny urls that can be put easily into a tweet to bring the audience to other areas of the communication effort. Use profile pics clearly establishing the division is part of the larger group.

Share the big picture message with the divisions and ask them how they think they can incorporate it into their local effort.

By that same token take this across the board to all your communication efforts. Why can’t your press release have the same feel to it as your webpage, SM site, or your television commercial?

I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on this process, but it seems to me the simplest of communication principles and theories apply no matter what tools we use. Sure we can try some new, exciting, even extravagant campaign, but in the end it will come back to consistency.

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