Who looks after social media?

Businesses and not-for-profits are increasingly adopting social media as part of their communications programs.

This isn’t a blog about how ‘social media has become mainstream’. What I do want to ponder is: who’s best suited to manage these social media strategies?

Is it an organisation’s:
• marketing department
• public relations team
• advertising team or
• (if an organisation is lucky enough to have it) its digital marketing department
• a multi-disciplinary team?

I tweeted the question recently and received a variety of responses, but little agreement. It reminds me a little of the great website debate of 10 years ago: who owns the company website? Corporate? IT? Marketing? [Sadly, some companies still haven’t resolved this.]

So where does social media sit? This is a real issue for me.

I work within the public relations field, and the social media campaigns I help manage often delve into the world of marketing. I’ve got a BA in Journalism and Masters in Communication Management … I don’t have the energy to become a marketer, too. But I know the marketing discipline would add definite strengths to some social media projects.

But do marketers care enough about regular two-way conversations with stakeholders? Probably not as much as PR bods, who are charged with caring about what all audiences say about their clients, wherever they say it.

Social media and PR work well together.

A PR professional can see where social media fits within a business’s overall communications strategy. Good PR bods recognise the need for two-way communication within an organisation, and social media is today’s key to two-way communication tool. PR professionals are also focused on outcomes, on reaching the right audiences in the right place, with the right message. We won’t play with social media just for the sake of it.

As Lee Hopkins has said (and said often), it’s about strategy. Who’s best able to steer your social media strategy for you? It’s not just about opening a Facebook page, boosting membership numbers, and blasting followers with regular marketing messages. There’s got to be a rhyme and reason to all this. If you’re not asking that question yet .. believe me, your followers soon will. Consumers are becoming more savvy and selective: they won’t follow everyone forever.

There needs to be a long term view. What’s going to happen to that Facebook page in a year, in two years? What does the organisation want to achieve? What does it believe in? What type of relationship does it want with its stakeholders?

New ‘Social media specialists’ who are setting up shop specifically to push organisations onto platforms like Facebook need to take a chill pill. They’re membership factories … with a finite membership. It’s a recipe for disaster.

IN SUMMARY: social media is turning into a specialist role for people with multi-disciplinary skills. The ones who rise to the top will be those who respect other specialities, ask for advice, and follow a STRATEGY.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Prakky says:

    Thanks everyone for your comments.Tarale and Ric, I'll look look up those sites you've mentioned.Lee: will DM you.Cheers.

  2. Mal Chia says:

    Interesting thoughts Michelle. I agree entirely that any use of social media within an organisation needs to have strategy and can't be aimlessly using the tools. However, I find it very difficult to answer the question who 'owns' social media within an organisation because in my opinion everything that is customer facing or requires an understanding of customer's (which is pretty much everything) is marketing (albeit with different focus e.g. PR, advertising, digital, which I guess also could fall under the category 'marketing communications')Marketing is fundamentally the science of understanding consumers and matching them with the right products and services for their needs. While social media gives us unparalleled insight into the mind's of our consumers it does not give us permission to engage with that. To do that we must first understand how we can add value through our interactions.I've written a longer, rambling response that you can find here: http://www.malchia.com/wp/2010/03/who-owns-social-media/

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