Social Media Centers of Excellence? Really?


My morning Twitter feed led to me to an article released in July of this year, an intriguing if baffling idea from Dion Hinchcliffe here

I put my tea down. Hard.

Here’s my issue with the thoughtful piece linked above: it treats ‘social media’ as just another enterprise skill that needs to be accommodated with the same management approaches: stakeholders, goals & requirements, processes, knowledge base, etc. Set up a Center of Excellence to ensure the organization’s social media efforts are coherent, managed, and answerable to business – noble goals, I quibble with the approach.

Nothing new here. Doubt me? Change the topic to Records Management and tell me how the graphic would be any different. Underlying technology infrastructure, core set of experts to ensure the ‘knowledge base’ information is disseminated, heroes out in the business (notice the business is always external to these types of presentations) who ‘get it,’ etc. (The burning platform for Records Management is arguably an easier case to make than standing up a center of excellence for Social Media.)

If you accept that social media is just something that companies are now doing haphazardly and need to ‘get more strategic’ about – then by all means, set aside 5-10 FTE to help your firm ‘do social.’ If you believe that the integration of social methods and tools is something that can advance your business or agency objectives, however, perhaps changing how you think about existing functions is in order. I shudder to think about organizations who have a Knowledge Management function, deciding to stand up a separate ‘social media’ Center of Excellence. What then? Regular cadence meetings to “ensure alignment” between these two tribes, each ‘supporting the business’ according to their specific play-books?

For my part, social methods and tools (please think of this as an inviolate couplet, it is never about the tools alone) should transform how an organization approaches Knowledge Management. At the very least. It should also change how we think about communications, innovation, customer service, citizen outreach, dispersed operations, and the list goes on. To mummify the promise of social methods and tools inside a 20th century management construct that emphasizes existing processes and stakeholders is to ensure the marginalization of this promise – if not its demise.

Frankly, I am surprised at this piece by the esteemed Dachis Group – what did I get wrong? What am I missing?

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9 Responses to Social Media Centers of Excellence? Really?

  1. There are all sorts of these discussions amongst thought leaders on the Facebook. But you have to be present in social media in order to engage. Sometimes showing up is half the battle.

    • jbordeaux says:

      So I need to join Facebook in order to engage the blogger whose article I referenced and to which you commented? I’m unconvinced that staying off Facebook represents not “showing up.”

  2. Peter Halverson says:

    …who is ultimately in charge of social media? Is it a central function? Or does it make more sense as a decentralized set of loosely coordinated activities on the edge, closer to where work gets done.

    Did I miss the part where he addresses this? I’m having trouble following whether a SMCoE is the former, the latter, or none of the above.

  3. Pingback: Social Media Centers of Excellence? Really? | O...

  4. John Maloney says:

    This causes a reflexive and response. This is a sterling example of malignant managerialism. See:

    This is an old trend of fill in the blank __________CoE. What will it be next week?

    + Collective Intelligence_CoE
    + Six Sigma_CoE
    + Communities of Practice_CoE


    Social media are about acting in the situated present. Enterprise leaders need to worry about distributed pull-through, praxis intervention, phronesis and learning from the future. There are far better ways to achieve these key behaviors.

    All the CoE does provide an excuse for the status quo, e.g., ‘We don’t need to worry about _____________ (fill-in-blank), we have a CoE.”

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  6. This is like companies talked during internet infancy. “We publish our customer newsletter, our corporate magazine, our ads, our product catalogue, our product sheets, our annual and quarterly reports…. and then we do internet”

    It’s just as absurd.

    Social Business is a matter of social permeating the company, not about putting a bucket of it on the side and wait for the magic to happen

  7. Frank Diana says:

    Very well said. Social will eventually have the disruptive impact that you articulated – but so far, it’s still viewed through a marketing lens. I believe that social is the most misunderstood of the big innovations (analytics, Big Data, Cloud, Mobile) and it frustrates me that so much time has passed and we are still talking about social in a basic marketing and listening sense. Having said that, the isolated social initiatives in companies today are creating even more silos, and a COE is indeed a way to get control of that.

    Thanks for the great post.

  8. John Maloney says:

    Re: Social Media Centers of Excellence

    WordPress parsed out my actual response because it was in angle brackets. Here is the correct response.

    “This causes a reflexive GAG response.”

    Apparently, we don’t need to worry…

    Thanks for the other excellent responses. They will be cited and re-purposed w/accreditation.

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