Does Forrester's "Hub and Spoke" Model Work For Association Social Media?

Forrester Research recently released a report on how companies should organize for social media. In the report, they detail three basic organizational models:

  1. The Tire (Distributed): Where each business unit or group may create its own social media programs without a centralized approach. Forrester calls this approach the “tire,” as it originates at the edges of the company.

  2. The Tower (Centralized): A standalone group within a company that’s responsible for social media programs. Forrester points out that the "tower" is often located in corporate marketing or communications departments.

  3. The Hub and Spoke (Cross Functional): Forrester likens this model to the hub on a bicycle wheel: a cross-functional group representing multiple stakeholders across the company assembled in the middle of an organization. The hub facilitates resource sharing and cross-functional communications (via the “spokes” in the wheel) to those at the edge of the organization (or the “tire”)


Forrester suggests that the most effective organizational model is #3, the "Hub and Spoke" model. Makes sense, right?

Enter silos.

A while ago I read an outstanding post by Beth Kanter about silos and social media, and it's stuck with me ever since. I think the impact of silo culture on social media has yet to really be brought to the forefront, mainly because most associations have yet to formalize their social media strategies and therefore have yet to deal with staffing those initiatives.

Here's the thing: close your eyes and think "hub and spoke" and what comes to mind? Probably a picture of a bike wheel, or something like that. Now think "silos"--and what comes to mind? Probably something like this. Now try to do an overlay of the hub and spoke visual over the silo one. Doesn't really work, does it?

As Geoff Livingston says in his post The Cultural Challenge to Integration "Publishing a Twitter feed, a blog, a Facebook group, a “viral” video is not the answer. Instead change the way relational communications are approached throughout the organization."

I suspect that, as time-consuming and challenging as it is to convince some association execs that engaging in social media is not only worthwhile but necessary, the real battle will lie with convincing them they'll need to totally overhaul the organization's structure first.