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Who owns social media? PR or Marketing?

By July 15, 2010January 21st, 20225 Comments

There have been some good discussions on the Social Media Club Seattle LinkedIn Group recently.

My response to a “who owns social media” question was a bit longish and self-contained, so I thought I’d share it here:

Social Media should be treated as just another marketing channel. Each channel has it’s rules, it’s purpose, it’s strengths and weaknesses. Social Media is good at shaping opinion, so it seems like it should be part of PR.

But doing so is a mistake because it restricts messaging and it can lose its authenticitity. What about the voice of the other constituencies in the organization? What about promotions? PR can’t and shouldn’t try to manage the voice of every facet of an organization.

Should Marketing own it? Social Media channels are contact points that impact an organization’s (or individual’s) brand, after all. I say “no” for the same reasons. An organization isn’t simply made up of the peeps in Marketing and PR.

Social Media needs to owned, directed and managed by an integrated team of people that represent the organization as a whole. If you’d like to see an organization that “gets it,” take a look at the Verity Credit Union Blog, and check out the list of writers on the right.

Verity Credit Union Blog

Oh, they are pretty good at it — the Verity blog was the first credit union blog ever.

So, who do you think owns social media?

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Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • I think that social media have characteristics of both marketing and PR (I’d call it marketing communications) – while Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and blogs (to name a few) are most definitely “channels,” they’re not “one way,” like advertising and collateral are in a traditional sense, where information is given to customers and consumers.

    Rather, they are two-way channels, inviting a conversation between the company or sender, and the client or consumer.

    The now-legendary “Old Spice guy” campaign from the past couple of weeks is the perfect example of a company that “gets it” and actually engaged in a conversation with customers and followers in its ads. Sure, that’s marketing that’s engaging in a two-way conversation (with a sense of humour).

    So while social media aren’t exclusive to marketing or PR, I think what makes them distinctive is that they depend upon a relationship for success. How many of us roll our eyes at companies (including PR and marketing companies) who are always on “send” on Twitter, talking about themselves and never engaging or talking to any of their followers? That is old school trying to treat social media like “just another channel”.

  • Thanks for weighing in. Leslie. I believe we are in agreement, just saying things differently.

    I’d argue that Social Media is indeed a channel (and saying so is not “old school”). It’s vastly different than anything that came before it and is, in fact, the realization of every marketer’s goal for the last two to three decades — a one-to-one relationship with the customer

    But it’s not exactly the relationship most marketers were accustomed to, is it. That one-to-one discussion was always pretty self-serving for marketers, but consumers had other ideas (which is good).

    But social media is indeed a channel – it’s one place where organizations and their constituents communicate, along with telephone calls, chat, text messaging, in-store kiosks, snail mail, in-person communication, etc.

    It simply has different rules, strengths and weaknesses. And it’s way better at creating a transparent, authentic conversation than anything that’s come before it.

  • Some folks have expressed fatigue with this question, but it’s a discussion I feel strongly is still worth while having. The trouble I have with “everyone” being responsible for social media is that when everyone is responsible, no one is responsible. Someone needs to be held accountable and be granted the authority to effect change. Finding the right person, or people, is the key element. No one “owns” the telephone, but then, sales people don’t make calls without product training and scripts. Marketing doesn’t “own” email, but then few marketers initiate direct email campaigns without checks and balances. That said, I’m not sure “owning” is the right term. In place I’d vote for facilitator, champion, or community manager, which has grown in popularity.

  • Looks like the HTML didn’t take on the link in my comment above. The link I was attempting to provide was: Who owns social media?

  • Andrew Johnson says:

    Short answer? both. Social media can be used effectively in both marketing and PR activities (if viewed independently instead of one and the same). However other stakeholders include HR, legal, customer service and sales. In fact, there may be subject matter experts in your company today creating blogs and participating in professional online discussions. It is important to set company standards for social media when used on behalf of the company. It is quickly becoming more of a coordination function than a “responsibility”. This ringleader must understand company branding to ensure consistency and should be as high in the organization as possible.

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