Meeting the social media challenge with a center of excellence


The Social Media phenomenon, coupled with the recent and seismic economic shift, is forcing marketing leaders to rethink their priorities and methods. More and more of us are realizing that yesterday’s results, including the process that delivered those results, are out of alignment with today’s focus. It turns out Twitter, to mention just one example from the world of Public Relations, is a great way to add interactivity to live product launch events (see SAS’ David B. Thomas and Mark Chaves respond via YouTube to questions asked from Twitter during the SAS Social Media Analytics launch event).

Marketing has evolved. And we all need to keep up.

Last week, I was talking with our Marketing Vice President, Adele Sweetwood and my peer, Dina Fiorentino. The three of us were chatting about how we could accelerate this rethinking of priorities and methods; about how we could integrate social activities into our traditional efforts. It’s clear that our prospects and customers wish to work with us differently, yet, to be candid, some of our marketers just don’t know how to do that.

After talking through this, the three of us realized we’ve solved challenges like this before. At the most basic level the issue is simple: something changed, and we need new thinking and new skills to adapt to that ‘something’. Or approach, then and now, is to apply a Centers of Excellence concept. There are two lines of attack:

  1. Formally change the organization to move people in to a centralized team, to do work that requires a specialized skill and can be leveraged throughout the department or company. Or,
  2. Create a central committee where best practices are discussed and documented. Each committee member is responsible to take those practices back to their teams and help others implement them more broadly.

We’ve had success with both approaches. Critical success factors include a:

  • Management champion who is accountable for success
  • Clear published and communicated team charter
  • Team members with knowledge, credibility and passion for the role

Over the coming months we’ll be writing more about our Social Media Center of Excellence. Until then we’d like to hear from you. What approaches to the social shift have worked for your company?


About Author

Deb Orton

Senior Marketing Director

Senior Marketing Director responsible for US focused Field Marketing campaign teams.


  1. The internet revolutionizes sales. Any single person can be an international business with the click of a button. SEO techniques like stuffing keywords onto pages don't and won't work any more.
    The social media model brings word of mouth advertising to the internet. No longer is success defined by who gets to the top of a search engine. Now if you are at the top of SERPS, you can bet people will double check with friends on twitter, facebook, and blogs. If you aren't there, you should be. Thank you for this information on the ever changing marketing techniques on the internet.

  2. Carl Peddle on

    I agree with your critical success factors, however, I would add that the management champion must fully recognize and make use of the many varied modems or mechanisms for communicating that are available today.
    Most business still do not take advantage of WEB 2.0 mediums for reaching staff, suppliers or potential customers. And this is mostly due to the lack of education on part of the senior management staff that are unaware of its benefits.

  3. Thank you for the reminder. Discipline is critical in an application of a COE. Remaining true to the charter and accountable for specific outcomes is key. Discipline to stay on course.

  4. Michelle Liggitt on

    I wish I was stating the obvious, but given the recent Nestle/Facebook fiasco I think it bears mentioning: make sure the person/people you place in charge of the actual social media postings are tactful and have the good sense to check with others in the group rather than trying to set policy on their own. Social media seems to be one area where the old adage "all publicity is good publicity" may not apply.

  5. Pingback: The bigger implications of asking, ‘Who owns social media?’ - Customer Analytics

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