The debate over who ‘owns’ social media is one that will no doubt rage on for some time. In many ways the argument is arbitrary – does it really matter? Nonetheless it is a battle that I occasionally get drawn into so let’s grasp the nettle.
PRs think that social media should fall under their remit, because they’ve been managing their clients’ conversations and reputations for decades. That’s all well and good, but what is the point of talking for conversation’s sake? Can PRs really measure the impact of social media? I’d argue, ‘no.’
From time to time, SEOs have sat back and sniggered at PRs and their claim to the guardian of social media. Why? Because over the past four years, SEO agencies have been increasingly invited to the top table to discuss marketing strategy.
And why is that?
Because SEOs can show the true impact of social media. They can demonstrate conversion and put pounds and pence on meaningful social media engagement, as opposed to the PR approach of lauding meaningless re-tweets or likes.
SEOs have a very specific set of skills to do their job which is grounded in absolute transparency and measurability. SEO as a discipline enforces rigour in terms of code content and execution.
Does a PR do this? And more importantly does a PR know how to do this? It is these metrics that can provide the ROI, and show a marketing director exactly where their spend is going and what the return is for their brand.
The insult to the injury is that SEOs are picking up PR skills faster than PR is adapting and learning technical capabilities. Week in week out we see more and more SEOs, writing articles, undertaking blogger engagement and media relations and doing so very capably.
So back to our initial question, ‘Who Owns Social Media now?’
Well, the truth is, it doesn’t exist in isolation so no one owns it. Social media can have an impact on reputation, search, sales and customer service. It is multi-faceted and so the debate is arguably, quite churlish.
Maybe the question should be which industry is earning the most fee income from social media?
PRs have been struggling to generate revenue from social media for some time. As evidence just take a look at the millions of empty Facebook pages run by PR firms nationwide.
So, given how SEOs are now turning their hand to social media, content marketing and even PR, the question really is not about who owns social media now, but what is SEO in this day and age?
In reality, we can use our skills across a broad range of online marketing techniques.
Simon Wharton is managing director of online marketing firm PushON.