Who Owns Social Media? Marketing, PR or Customer Service? 3 Things to Consider.

I recently did a custom corporate training program for a large marketing company and advertising agency, and one of the questions that came up (and it usually does with big companies) is “who should own social media”?

This is a tricky question to answer, primarily because the “right” answer is different for each organization.  But what does it mean to “own” social media?  Is that the executor, strategy owner or person accountable for the results?  In most cases many different functions play a role in the process.

Rather than answer the question (sorry, people, there are no easy answers here) I’ll share some of the key considerations when determining how different parts of your organization may fit into your social media strategy.

All Organization Functions should play a Role

First things first.  This isn’t an “either or” question.  Chances are that many different parts of your organization will play a role in your social media marketing plan.  It won’t simply be controlled by one function or individual, but rather the social media strategy will culminate from the participation of many key players.

  • Marketing – Typically marketing will own the overall marketing strategy and objectives for the channel.  How does social media fit with other communications channels and how does it tie back to the overall strategy.  Social media should augment and support overall marketing – not be a stand-alone approach.
  • Public Relations– Usually PR owns how sensitive issues and news are communicated and deals with responding to issues.  The same should be true of social media.  PR will play a key role in the positioning and communications.
  • Customer Service – These people know how to deal with customers on a day-to-day basis and are well trained in responding to many of the most common questions about the product.  They make great “front-line” participants in social media and can also be great community managers.

But your social media team should be much broader and also include:

  • Sales Teams – How can they leverage the social media assets and are there any issues created from social media posts?  Can social media support the sales process?
  • Legal – Yes, include them upfront to avoid battles later on.  Be sure that your plan doesn’t violate any internal or external law or policy.
  • Advertising Agency – These are the creative geniuses who bring your brand to life in traditional channels.  They can help do the same in the social space.
  • IT – Chances are that if you want to create a blog or any online asset IT will have an opinion.  Include them upfront and let them help you tackle technical barriers.
  • Top Leadership – If you will need buy-in from the top you may want to consider including an executive or senior sponsor upfront to make sure that your plan will have the support it needs to really take off.

One key consideration is that social media will require the coordination of people from many different departments.  In most big companies this means that you will want to make sure that you have a senior leader endorsing the project so that you can get the support you need to make it happen.  Don’t ignore the corporate politics that could become roadblocks.

Social Media Roles should Link to General Roles

Social media roles and responsibilities shouldn’t be about re-inventing the wheel.  The social media strategy should match the rest of your business strategy.

When creating the organizational structure for your social media execution the roles should probably match the general job descriptions of each function.  This varies for each company.  In some companies marketing plays the biggest role in strategy, in others it is PR.

Social media should be handled the same way the rest of the marketing is, but probably with a few extra players involved.  The key is to leverage the skills and competencies that each part of your organization already has.

Remember the social media plan will not just involve one part of your organization. When I worked with a big consumer goods company we mapped out the specific role that each function would play.  For example:

  • Marketing – overall strategy
  • PR – messaging and monitoring
  • Customer Service – front line execution
  • IT – technical support

“Ownership” can mean many things.  There are many different pieces to social media execution.  Don’t get too caught up in turf wars – focus on who will actually do what.

Who Has the Passion?

The last consideration is who really has the passion for social media and will be the internal champion for it?  Most big organizations make the leap in social media because someone stepped up and provided eduction, support and a plan internally.

Which organization has people who are passionate about social media?  Most big companies require an internal champion to really get things moving and keep them on track.  Who has that passion and can visualize how your company can use social media?

In most organizations, social media starts with the part of the company that brings that initial passion and excitement to it.  When it comes to generating ideas, getting executive buy-in and showing the link to business goals and ROI, the best person is the person who is passionate about social media.

What have you seen work?

Who owns social media in your company? What roles do each of these groups play for you?

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