Social media’s interplay with organizational structure

Social media’s interplay with organizational structure

As most of us are probably aware, social media has increasingly gained prominence. A three year old survey, cited in an article on social media use in organizations, found that 65 per cent of businesses used some sort of social media platform or Web 2.0 based solution (Treem & Leonardi 2012, p. 143).

And it wouldn’t surprise me if that number was even higher today.

This interest has so far manifested in audiences, strategies, platforms and KPIs receiving most of the attention. However, other aspects are equally important (in my mind), if businesses want to truly leverage the power of social media.

One of these aspects is organizational structure (another equally important aspect is organizational culture, which can have a detrimental impact on internal social media (Parry & Solidoro 2013, pp. 133-134)). Any community manager knows how social media permeates the organization and affects more than the department it originated in.

From personal experience working with social media and as a community manager, I can attest that you receive a variety of different requests through social. And it’s this variation that permeates the organization; when requests range from the plain and simple “can I have your contact information” to “I’m experiencing this problem with your product” and the occasional “shitstorm” for some organization (luckily, I have never experienced this).

To deal with this, you have to have a structure (and culture) that allows for quick and agile knowledge sharing and collaboration between departments and business functions to successfully assist the customer at hand. And I would imagine that this is increasingly true the more specialized an organization gets.

Yet, this is precariously under emphasized in both business-related literature and the academic world with Linke & Zerfass (2012, p. 272) noting that: “organizations are still lacking appropriate structures, cultures and strategies for participative modes of online communication” .

I have therefore in my master’s thesis set out to investigate how organizational structure and social media interacts. Throughout this process, I will on a more or less regular basis share my thoughts on social media and organizational structure (once in a while adding the odd comment on culture; despite this not being in the thesis’ scope). So, if you find this interesting, stay turned for more thoughts.

Please feel free to leave a comment and share your thoughts with us (Go ahead and write in Danish as well!)



Linke & Zerfass: Social Media governance: regulatory framework for successful online communication (2012) pp. 270-286

Parry & Solidoro: Social media as a mechanism for engagement? (2013) Chapter 6

Treem & Leonardi: Social media use in organizations: exploring the affordances of visibility, editability, persistence, and association (2012) pp. 143-189