Where does Social Media live in the organization?

When I first started this social media agency, the question I was asked most often was, “What is social media?”  In just a few months, that question morphed into, “What kinds of things can social media do for my organization specifically?”

Today, we’re onto a new most popular question. This one is often asked by people who work in large organizations, and that’s, “Where does social media live in the organization?”  One company I talked to had a task force with dozens of people on it.  Another had given the lead to CorpComm, but they were meeting regularly with the brand teams.  There are lots of opinions on this topic and for a while I struggled with the answer—until now.  Here’s the simple truth that is making it so hard for you to come up with the answer for your organization:

Social media is not a tactic.  If it were, you could assign it to a department.  It’s a phrase to describe a broad array of new tools that let you talk to, and hear from, your constituents in a variety of new ways.  Asking who owns social media would be no more fruitful than asking who owns writing.

Each part of the organization needs to re-evaluate the way they communicate and see how social media opens up options for them.Who owns social media in the organization?

  • Brand managers can now use social media as an integral part of marketing campaigns.  I lead with brand managers here because getting the right social media marketing plan developed and executed is an art—one that will certainly impact brand perception.
  • Product developers can use social media for consumer intelligence.  The idea that you have to spend tens of thousands to get limited information from focus groups is becoming outmoded.
  • Public relations can look at the messages that they send and figure out how they can make them a) more interesting and b) more easily digested by the blogosphere and the networks.  Typically (a) is harder than (b) for many companies.
  • Customer service should be using social media to decrease call volume and increase customer satisfaction.  Paying $35 per phone call to answer the same types of questions thousands of times isn’t helping anyone.
  • Human resources can be using social media to convey what working at the company is all about, and they should certainly be using it to go find candidates with particular backgrounds.

The task force trying to get their “arms around” social media will likely spend a lot of time spinning in circles. The question is too big.  Several small groups, each asking how these new tools can help them accomplish a specific objective will get much, much further.

Remember that line, “You can’t control social media?”  It has more than one meaning…

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