One of the most common questions asked by communicators is who should own social media? And, there are all sorts of answers.
Advertising. CRM. Marketing. Public Relations. Social Media Experts. Human Resources. Yadda. Yadda.
Social Media Requires Thinking Different.
I've long held the view that nobody owns social media. Or, perhaps more accurately, everyone does. It requires integrated communication.
The reason is simple enough. Social media represents people and technologies that exist in an online environment. The actions and conversations that take place in this online environment are not limited to traditional communication silos (departmentalized communication functions such as advertising, marketing, etc.).
If it was limited to traditional silos, social media programs would be easy. We could assign social media to a single silo and call it a day.
That's all fine and good until you realize that your copywriter is fielding media inquiries or your public relations professional is producing a video or your employees are irritated because answering customer complaints interferes with playing Farmville on Facebook at home. Or any number of other problems people have asked us to fix over the last few years.
While the graphic above is only a sketch, it demonstrates how strategically driven thinking can help reshape a social media program away from the common view, allowing advertising to produce presentations (videos, advertisements, platform design, creative campaigns, etc.), public relations to manage outreach (groups, media relations, public sentiment, etc. ), and social media consultants to engage consumers (via networks, analytics, forums, blogs, etc.). And even if different elements are assigned to different skill sets, we can probably conclude that there will be some overlap.
The real problem seems to be that nobody can honestly answer "who should own social media?" before the organization has answered "how does social media fit into our communication strategy?"
For example, the question should never be "which department will manage Twitter" as much as it ought to be "does Twitter fit within our strategy, how does it fit and what do we want to accomplish, and who is best suited to accomplish it?" Ask that series of questions and you'll likely draw different conclusion.
Who knows? Maybe you'll find that you have several accounts, some operated by individuals, one staffed by customer service, and one developing relationships with analysts, journalists, and bloggers. Or maybe you'll find that you don't need a Twitter account at all.
Over the next few weeks, we'll share a few organizational models for social media. That doesn't mean any of those models will work for everyone. The reality is that most organizations have very different traditional communication models so it stands to reason any social media program would be handled differently anyway.
In the meantime, take a look at David Fleet's The 2010 Social Media Marketing Ecosystem. I'm not fond of technology-driven flowcharts supplanting communication models nor do I think corporate Web sites need to be placed front and center.
However, Fleet is one of the very few who is moving in the right direction as we've found his type of flowchart is among the easiest for decision makers to understand. It also helps shift the conversation away from ownership and toward strategic development.