Middle management is essentially the ones who might lose their job due to social media. The classic task of middle management is to manage and report to C level (or more in general: upper management) about a group of people. Since the group of people grew beyond manageable sizes they were split up in smaller groups managed by a middle manager (this is a very oversimplified presentation of the facts though).
Now with social media, the role of middle management as just people that manages a group of people is not something that adds value any more. Since their role was to keep thing scalable for upper management this need has disappeared with the emergence of social networks. Social networks are an easy way to organize groups without any (formal) organization. So for upper management is has become easier to keep up to date on what’s going in a group of 1000 people, where in the past they needed 5 middle managers to report that information to them.
Changing the role of Middle Management
However it requires a change from command and control to a more free information flow where trust is an essential part of the relationship. Every level (from upper management to junior clerk) in the company should be present on social media, since the structure of companies might transform from hierarchical to network. Still sometimes with benevolent dictators and not always a full democracy, however the web has never been a full democracy, it has either been a popularity contest or a collection of benevolent dictators, it never was a collection of middle managers.
Middle managers might be cut out of every equation since their added value, managing, aggregating and monitoring can be replaced by a new way of working via social networks. However a good middle manager is a connector, one who can connect groups of people, one who also can get the best out of people by just picking up the smallest signals. Some middle managers might shift towards community managers and network facilitators and other middle managers will just have to look for a new job.
Social Media helps organizations to tap in their potential and go beyond the single point of contact (or failure) called middle management. It will not solve everything for every organization, to it will help some organization to be organized in a different and more flexible way, which can lead to cost reduction (for example by removing the horrendous middle management update meetings), thrive innovation, shorten time to market and create (top line) revenue growth.
However to get to these goals, you won’t need middle management, though you need some kind of structure in order to achieve these goals. And some in middle management can be a great help in structuring your new way of working via social media.