Who Should Own Social Media

originally posted on Concept Hub

It is a debate that has been going around for as long as social media has been recognized as a force; “Who should own social media?”

I recall times when the debates got ugly between mainstream media and bloggers. The question on the table was who should own the news, who was the most credible. From my perspective, the answer was not black and white, bloggers vs mainstream media. It seemed obvious that both bloggers and mainstream journalist had a co-dependent relationship and that they often shared an audience and beyond that, the audience often added their voice to the reports.

For a long time, I have also seen debates between PR and Interactive Marketing. PR is in charge of managing reputation, creating buzz, and shaping the message. Interactive marketing is in charge of selling and serving the customer via the various channels on the web. For over a decade most online communications came from one direction. Now, as we all know, customers are talking back to the institutions as well as talking to each other. Through the years 2005-2007 I spoke with several PR professionals who had one question; “How do we control the message?” The answer was that you can’t. But you can manage the message based on how the customer is served and how the relationship is managed. To me, that means that PR and Interactive Marketing are now dependent on each other.
Since the reputation of a company is at the mercy of how well customer service is executed, we now have CRM professionals staking their claim on social media. When a company such as United Airlines, makes the wrong person, such as Dave Carroll, feel like he is not a valued customer, amazing things can happen, such as a music deal for Dave and lots of lost revenue and a damaged reputation for United.

It seems that customer service representatives need to be on top of their game more now than ever, and they need to know how to proactively address customers where they are seeking answers. Organizations like the ACVB currently have their customer service representatives spending time answering questions that are posted throughout the web. Best Buy has established a very active online customer service army.

Advertising has also been very active in looking at ways they can be part of the conversation within social media, how they can track customer interest, and what is the trick to going viral?

Sales professionals have become active in participating in a variety of online networks to identify and learn more about their clients, prospects, and competitors.

Human Resource professionals have leveraged social media sites for recruiting and to check the reputation of current and future employees. More often than not Human Resources is also being tasked with creating employee guidelines related to participating in social media.

Considering there are so many departments involved in social media, it seems that the next big tidal wave in the world of social media that is starting to hit is Enterprise 2.0. The use of social software to communicate internally, to be able to react to the market quickly as well as develop unified proactive plans.

This past week I delivered my presentation, Mapping Corporate Goals with Social Media Trends and Technologies, to the International Society for Performance Improvement.

This was the second time I have delivered this presentation and both times it has been very well received. In fact, my favorite feedback of all time came from a senior manager that attended the presentation. He said he finally is starting to understand social media, that it needs to be a corporate-wide strategy, not just a PR or Advertisement initiative. It was a very rainy night that night, but I believe the clouds parted and the stars shined down when he said that.

It took some time, but most people finally understand that social media cannot be controlled. Now if only we can realize it also cannot be owned.