Discussions abound on who “owns” social media in an organization. This came up during a panel discussion at the Social Media 201 event last week in Seattle where it was suggested a communications team/department should own social media content et al and not marketing. This sentiment seems to focus more on control and less on the most important element – The Customer.
Ownership is not the question or even the answer. Organizations that successfully engage in social media will have multiple departments engaged through multiple channels and platforms. (Sales, Product Management and Support should also engage.) Functions such as customer service, product management, and even sales will be required to engage with customers beyond e-mail and telephone calls.
Marketing is strategic to an organization and not just limited to the outbound noise of constant promotions. Unfortunately many businesses are using social media channels in short sighted ways. Over the last 20+ years of B2B marketing (especially in the tech industry) marketing execs and departments have fallen from grace because of their focus on tactical promotional marketing activity. (Nirmaly Kumar’s book “Marketing as Strategy” describes this perfectly and how to return to a strategic role.) We marketing folks have brought this onto our organizations through the relentless publishing of brochureware, e-mail spam campaigns, and tradeshows. Our connections with customers are often based on guesswork derived from anecdotal information from sales people and channel partners.
Marketing should use social media as a critical channel to reconnect and listen to customer conversations and provide high value content at the right time. Promotions do have a role in social marketing but they are only a small piece of the marketing equation when using social media. Who are the customers? What do they care about? How do you reach them in a way they will trust? Do your customers even care about social media connections?
Organizations need to build their social media plan before taking the leap. What are the objectives and desired outcomes? What are the best way to achieve the strategic objectives? How can social media channels weave together across functions? Standard business principles apply even in this new era of Web 2.0…
Ownership is a shared responsibility and obligation. Too much focus on control will slow down the organzation and hinder customer engagements. This isn’t a turf war.
The one who owns this channel is the customer.