The Trickle-Down Potential of Centers of Excellence

by · November 15, 20122 comments

The recommendation du jour in the social business set is for companies to build a social media center of excellence to serve as a central hub of your burgeoning social enterprise. The problem the analysts and purveyors of this philosophy have is they are myopic to enterprise businesses. They leave 99.5 percent of all businesses out of their per view. (With “small business” defined as those under 100 employees.)

Similarly, on the technology front, it is common to see a “labs” team that tests and hacks away at websites and APIs to plug into social networks and make their site do this or that. Innovation consultants will argue for this team of rogue, start-up like departments as they throw out principles of The Lean Startup and convince companies they should act like small businesses. Again, the problem is that those recommendations are for large companies. Small ones can’t possibly afford to divert staff from the task at hand to hack APIs and teach everyone in the organization about collaboration.

But here’s where the philosophical core of social media may just come in handy. As these large enterprises build their labs squads and centers of excellence, many will share their findings. This is what small businesses must watch and hold out hope for. Sure, companies like Exact Target and HubSpot do it now, but tacked on to lead-gen efforts. The information is generally free and sometimes useful, but there’s a catch.

What needs to happen is non-technology companies crossing the chasm into COEs and Labs approaches should make sharing a priority.

Imagine what would happen if Bank of America or PNC openly shared their findings, experiences, research and even some intellectual property, so that community banks and credit unions could benefit from such. Imagine how many independent insurance agents or real estate brokers could grow by getting industry-specific intel from Nationwide, Morgan Keegan or Century 21.

Sure, those companies would also be sharing their findings with the competition. Sure, there will be traditionalists and lawyers who have conniption fits over sharing intellectual property and information that may surrender a small piece of competitive advantage. But it will make the industry and the world a better place.

Am I naive to think this is possible? Can the companies that enter the COEs and Labs approach actually be social? Yes or no, what can we do now to promote this conversation in hopes companies will take that aim to heart?

The trickle down effect from COEs and Labs might be the biggest single innovation “social business” brings to the table. Let’s figure out how to make that happen.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog and signature Explore events. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • lawduck

    The flip side of the coin is that consumer expectations may rise regarding a small company’s participation in social media, because all the big dogs are doing it. It may be that differentiating on “big” will return (“does YOUR credit union have a Center of Excellence?”), and if that seems to resonate, sharing isn’t going to happen (I don’t think), except to the extent that people brag about it at conferences.

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