Social Media 2.0 – The Next Generation


Share on LinkedIn

ComStar, a Cross Functional Organization Model and Strategy for Social Media engagement

How it started:
When companies begin to engage in social media they typically start in the marketing department with some rather tactical marketing campaigns. In those early models a large company either hired some social media “experts” to do the campaign or found some engaged people internally. The rest of the organization does “business as usual”. The problem quickly surfaces in sales “What are these guys talking to my customers”, on the service side “what are they promising to our clients”, and the product management team still doesn’t get any feedback how to better launch the next generation products. While it is obvious that social media is a key method to create a better customer experience, a better way to listen to the market, a faster way to react to needs and a less expensive way to become part of the market, the “social media marketing campaigns” alone can’t do the job. An isolated “campaign” is often counter productive and it would be better to just not engage at all.

What did we learn:
Learning from the early experiences we developed a holistic approach, a cross functional organization model that is able to carry out a social media strategy. The so called ComStar model integrates all departments that have a touch point with the market into the social engagement strategy. Only a small core of social media trained and experienced people is necessary to help steer even large global enterprises into a new direction. An internal social media strategy and it’s leverage effect makes it possible.

The Principle:
At it’s core, the ComStar Model has one principle:
– Develop a social media service team (SMST) that supports all departments in the organization
The SMST members do not necessarily tweet, blog, comment themselves instead empowers others to do so.
Similar to IT team, finance support or HR that services an entire company, the SMST functions the same way.

How it works:
With the ComStar Model, the SMST (Social Media Service Team) is the guardian angel of the social media strategy. The main objective is to inspire, motivate and service the strategy relevant departments such as marketing, sales, service, product management, HR and other. The departments in turn engage with the customer base, prospects and the market in a whole. In this model the SMST is the cordial spine for the engagement, while sales keeps the control and the relationship to their customers (even so in a different more social manner), marketing keeps being the creative part in the new engagement model “not pushing the message” but fueling the conversation, product managers get the tools and methods to better listen to needs of the market and service teams get the support to be better integrated in customer issues.

Behavioral changes, in particular with “the old guard” on the sales side, are as painful as necessary. Change has never been an easy task. But also change has never been more important and has never shown more successful results like today. Creating some fan pages and a few tweets don’t create a better customer experience – nor does it generate the often promised millions of additional revenue. But a great and ongoing trust building relationship with the market does, as we can see in cases like Zappos.

We will present the model in greater detail on
Fri, Aug 14, 2009 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM PDT
Leasdership Series Webinar

– Social media impact to our business operations
– ComStar, an organization model for social media strategies
– Comparing structural differences
– Implementation challenges
– Job description, work flow and responsibilities
– Motivation and compensation considerations
– Cross functional reporting models
– A holistic view to corporate social media

Axel Schultze
CEO of Society3. Our S3 Buzz technology is empowering business teams to create buzz campaigns and increase mentions and reach. S3 Buzz provides specific solutions for event buzz, products and brand buzz, partner buzz and talent acquisition buzz campaigns. We helped creating campaigns with up to 100 Million in reach. Silicon Valley entrepreneur, published author, frequent speaker, and winner of the 2008 SF Entrepreneur award. Former CEO of BlueRoads, Infinigate, Computer2000.


  1. I think it will take a while for people (many of whom are already active in social media) to get the full-picture of what a real social media strategy means. I see it as companies moving from an automated voice saying “Please wait, your call is very important to us” and then keeping you on hold for 10 minutes, to actively being in relationship with their customers – not just fixing problems when they happen. I wouldn’t have much love for people who only came to me when there was a problem, and I don’t have much love for people who only come to me when they want me to buy something from them. Since customers can’t knock down the doors of corporations, it is up to the businesses to open up the ways we all talk to each other. Only then can we come to like each other, have some loyalty and talk positively.

    I agree that your thinking is Social Media 2.0, but it is also Human Relations 1.0

  2. Axel

    Look around you in big corprations. The tendency is for operational functions to bypass support functions like HR, IT and less so, finance. It all started with HR in the 1980s as departmental managers found that they could do a better job of managing staff than HR. HR was left doing the paper-work surrounding H&SW, hiring and firing. IT was next as legacy systems were replaced by departmental solutions and today by SaaS and the cloud. IT was left managing legacy systems and data interfaces. Both of these functions were superceded by decentralised solutions because they didn’t keep up with the times and in particular, because they didn’t offer tangible value to other functions.

    As organisations start to adopt Social CRM, the danger is that unless we evolve the organisation and its capabilities in parallel with its use of Social CRM, we will just recreate the same organisational mess that HR and IT are in today. A shiny new group quickly out of date, leaving other functions with no option but to do their own thing. As I pointed out in an earlier post on Q: Who Should Own Social CRM? A: Not Who You Think! a cross-functional group like you suggest may be a solution, but only after it has tried, used and outgrown simpler organisational arrangements first. This is about the principles of organisation design, not about Social CRM!

    Graham Hill
    Customer-centric Innovator
    Follow me on Twitter

    Interested in Customer Driven Innovation? Join the Customer Driven Innovation groups on LinkedIn or Facebook to learn more.

  3. Graham – I’m glad you bring this up. While it is an obvious concern and trust me – I’ve been too often in that situation – I learned one thing: If a structure is bad we may not through out the concept but learn how to fix it. The isolated social media activities didn’t work so far – but a concerted effort does.
    The biggest difference to IT in particular:
    IT “owns” the systems, “protect” their jobs, and “control” what is going on. The rules for managing those structures need to be overhauled in general.
    The SMST doesn’t control and definitely not own the people relationship – but what they can do is provide knowledge, guidance and the collaborative character to the engagement. Check this video from


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here