Replacing Silos with Hives: Creating a Social Culture

This week I ran across a Geoff Livingston post with a brilliant bee metaphor explaining how organizations need to create a social culture to exploit social media’s full potential (readers of my blog know I love social media bee metaphors):

“The basic nest architecture for all honey bees is similar: ‘Honey is stored in the upper part of the comb; beneath it are rows of pollen-storage cells, worker-brood cells, and drone-brood cells, in that order. The peanut-shaped queen cells are normally built at the lower edge of the comb.’

“Hives are adjacent to each other, and while their members each have roles, from products (honey) and defenders to mates and rulers, these hives allow for fluid interaction. This a much different mindset than a traditional corporate architecture of silos. A hive architecture allows for fluid information transfer and interaction between roles, as well as more open access to the outside,” he wrote.

This is a very important topic because all too often an organization’s senior leadership doesn’t fully understand or appreciate what social media is all about, leading them to assign a junior staff person or intern to manage it. Without the attention of senior leadership across “silos,” these efforts usually flounder because they fail to spark authentic conversation; lack an organization-wide strategic focus; and often overuse cheesy “push”  marketing, undermining trust in the organization’s brand.

Here are five crucial steps to tap the power of your staff members’ collective engagement in social media: 

1. Create an integrated social media strategy.  Start with a plan to coordinate your social media efforts across your organization—marketing, customer service, public relations, web content/search engine optimization (SEO), human resources, etc.—so you are speaking with one voice, working efficiently, and not sending out mixed messages. Make sure your strategy enables content to be updated quickly, allowing for live conversations, and focuses on your organization’s communications needs, not the latest tools.

2. Develop social media guidelines. For your staff members to tweet or blog without fear, they need social media guidelines to know what they can and cannot do.  These guidelines should define your expectations, encourage social media problem-solving, and spell out what they must avoid in both personal and professional status updates.

3. Allow staff members to listen. To avoid having staff members talk at people about your brand, product or service (and turn them off), you need to allot them enough time to listen and orient themselves online before diving in. Through listening, they will understand the nuances of each conversation channel, who the thought leaders are, what people are talking about, and what interests or concerns them. Only then can they engage people authentically, putting people’s needs and interests first (using a pull, not push, marketing approach) in support of your organization’s communications needs.

4. Reward staff members for communicating. Create incentives, such as contests, prizes, and encouragement from senior leadership.

5. Share what is and isn’t working.  Track the time staff members are spending on social media tasks and constantly benchmark this data against the progress your organization is making toward your communications objectives. Keep staff members informed about these results and seek their input on best practices and course corrections.

What are your thoughts? Do you think social media is best left to interns? Please leave your comments below.

Posts You Might Also Like

About Monica

Monica specializes in strategic communications, web and new media, and print materials with an international or multi-cultural context. She has worked on national public outreach campaigns targeting multi-cultural audiences and has conceptualized, written, and/or designed multiple websites. Monica also has written, edited, and/or designed high-profile newsletters, brochures, and reports, including some prepared in collaboration with the White House. She holds a bachelor’s in journalism and a master of international service with a focus on international communication. Monica is based in Washington, D.C.