Structuring SocialOrgs: Social Media and the TALL Organizational Model

If naming this blog “SocialOrgs” didn’t hint at it enough, in today’s market, organizations have an increasingly demanding need to be SOCIAL.

It’s not enough anymore for a business, or any structured organization for that matter, to sit back and watch their marketing content work for them. Instead, organizations need to be their own marketing content; they need to invest in CONVERSATION. Having said that, not every organization is set up to participate in online conversation. Many organizational structures limit the ability for their members to react online, leaving them behind in both online dialogue and their audience’s interests as a result.

Here, we’ll take a quick look at some popular organizational structures and their ability to enable online conversation. Inspired by a great article over at DotEduGuru, we will be looking at TALL organizational structures: the hierarchical and divisional models. By understanding each model and its ability to enable social media, you will be able to weigh the pros and cons, and choose which organizational structure is right for you. Because, as we’re about to find out, some structures can be much more efficient at sustaining a reactive social media strategy, but unfortunately this ability comes with some trade-offs.


simple-organizational-chartTypically, a hierarchical organization looks like a pyramid, with a few powerful members on top that oversee the larger workforce beneath them. In this, members are held accountable to authority, but usually cannot act autonomously. Members are motivated to be productive, with a clear understanding of the chain-of-command and how they can be promoted, but lower members are often not given much freedom and must seek approval from the ‘higher-ups’ before taking action. This, as we’ll discuss, can function to limit a hierarchical organization’s social media strategy.


divisional-corporate-organizational-structureThe divisional structure is just how it sounds, made of distinct and semi-autonomous divisions. It divides a large organization into smaller divisions that each have their own responsibilities, all of which are contributing to the overall performance of the organization. Each vertical division is managed separately and acts within its own department, maintaining its own distinct staff and resources. As a result, there is great communication within each division, while collaboration between divisions is often discouraged. One example arose when Microsoft released their SocialConnector to integrate emails with your social media content, but did not allow its program to connect to Microsoft Sharepoint or Windows Live; a result of Microsoft’s cut-off divisional structure. Not to mention, office politics can rear its ugly head when an organization creates competition between divisions.


Each of these models have one major benefit: efficiency. They distribute tasks to their according department and, as long as each one delivers on their responsibilities, the final goal can be achieved accumulatively. Control can be well established throughout the entire organization and its vertical branches, providing consistency and accountability. Having said that, tall organizations that utilize the hierarchical or divisional model are often lacking in internal collaboration and innovation, because of their highly structured environment. This can contribute to an organization that is inflexible and slow to react. All of these implications have an effect on the organization’s social media strategy.

Hierarchical organizations can be counterproductive in terms of establishing an organic social media presence. Because members must seek approval for their actions, the chain-of-command often halts action and results in a social media strategy that is too slow to react to online dialogue. Hierarchical structures are most popular because of their ability to sustain authoritative control, but this control can damage their ability to remain immersed in online conversation. Divisional organizations are just as efficient. They allow each division to focus on its own tasks without any interference and allow for a more tight-knit team environment. On the other hand, social media strategies within divisional organizations can be complicated. Unless one division is solely devoted to social media, inconsistencies can develop in establishing a social presence. This can ultimately cause issues in developing a coherent online voice.


The tall organizational model that we have analyzed here is great at ensuring ‘safe’ social media, as the chain-of-command makes sure that nothing too risky gets publish. Nonetheless, these kinds of SocialOrgs face the risk of falling behind in conversation, as online conversation is constantly changing and a filtered social media presence is slow to react.

Tune-in tomorrow to get the other perspective, where we will be looking at FLAT organizational structures and their implications on your social media strategy.