20 Oct Who Owns Social? Social Media Specialists or Public Relations
What came first, the chicken or the egg? Similar to this old adage, we don’t know who should own a brand’s social presence: public relations or social media marketing? It seems like the answer is right in the question. Truth is, social media marketing was sort of born from the rib of public relations, and as such, the confusion is perfectly reasonable.
Kind of like cousins that grew apart, somewhere down the road a battle began to see who would win over Grandma’s affection. At the end of the day, Grandma (aka the brand) must identify strategic messaging goals and trek down the proper avenue before reaching those goals. And on social channels, remember that content is king. So therein lies the question: which grandkid is the right fit for it, social media or PR?
Understanding Roles, Defining Goals for Your Social Media Team
This family feud has been debated for years; we’ve even discussed whether PR or social specialists should own social media marketing on this blog before.
As a community manager working with a partner public relations agencies often, I find that the magic happens when both parties meet in the middle, and the struggle between “ownership” of content is avoided by setting ground rules. So in an effort to simplify the matters, let’s break this down:
- Social Media Marketing is proactive. It’s ready to jump on conversations on a whim, sometimes unsolicited (surprising) but always effectively inserting the brand into popular vernaculars – with consumers first and foremost. Think Twitter.
- Public Relations is more reactive in the sense that it exists to create strategies after the fact, to continue conversations that have already started around a brand, or strategically place them in media outlets that will eventually serve them to the public. In this case, the public could mean consumers, but it also involves shareholders and media eyes. Think press releases.
The two parts are essential for a brand’s success and overall communications strategies, but clearly understanding where their strengths and weaknesses lie is key for a better consumer experience on social media channels.
Same message + different audience insights = opposing deliveries (pun intended).
Picking Your Social Media Marketing Team
Social Media Marketers are constantly in touch with the brand’s audience. They’re the ones listening to what fans are saying. Inherently, they’re the ones in the trenches of social media learning first-hand what the latest trending hashtag or cool new app is all about. They play, they laugh, they cry and they feel what their fans, followers, and hardcore brand loyalists are saying. And they respond in a voice that’s in line with a brand’s motto, but in a personal, one-on-one way.
Public Relations experts can take news about the brand and shed a very positive light on them. They can reach thousands via their connections with other media outlets and publishers. They have editors, influencers and media buyers on speed-dial, ready to push out the latest and greatest information about a brand in a very polished, professional and safe manner.
But while PR does know consumers well, they are not forced to be on their level all day, every day. This means that from a content-creation standpoint, social media marketers know what to do because they move, think and feel like consumers; they are in total sync. It creates an advantage when it comes to communicating effectively because these audience insights reflect directly on the content they put out.
Hootsuite says “social media is not a billboard, it’s a conversation. Public relations is about leveraging relationships to frame and position that conversation.” In a nutshell, Social Media talks with me. PR talks to us. Social Media went to liberal arts school. PR went to Harvard. Social Media is fun. PR is fact.
So, who should own your social media?
Got it. I’m a Grandma, I mean, brand. What do I do?
Brands, understand one thing: you love all your grandchildren equally. But you separate their duties and assign the best players to position they play best. And the best way you can do that is by identifying the goals and separating the duties between Social Media Marketers and PR.
Trust Social Media marketers to run your channels and create the content your audiences want, but take what PR has to say into consideration. Trust PR to lead the big media guns, but hear your social team out when it comes to dotting the i’s. Create harmony and flow between these professionals that are willing to go to bat for your brand. Understand they’re different, but they both want the same thing: to see your brand succeed.
Now go knit them both a nice sweater.