The question about who owns social within a business has come up too often and could be argued nine ways to Sunday depending on your perspective. If you’re in the marketing team, you want to communicate your brand’s message via social. If you’re in the complaints department and your customers are venting on social, it’s going to be your priority to contain it. While all the partial responsibilities hold true, the question of who singularly owns social within an organisation is very short-sighted. Maybe they both got together and decided to invite the “Social Media Manager” to the party to keep order?
How can one part of an organisation take sole responsibility for a multi-functional, multi-purpose tool? How can you own something that is tangible and constantly evolving?
Why does social media so frequently start with Marketing?
As long as the reasons for why a consumer goes online are evolving, and not all businesses are structured the same way, no one department in an organisation can take sole ownership of social. In fact, if you’re asking this question as a brand, you’re already heading for trouble. Think of the consumer as the end point. Are they concerned with who came up with a really strong piece of content that far outreached the followers on your page? Or which department delayed getting back to them on a complaint? No. They see you as one unit. And so should you.
Social ownership needs to be part of the culture, and ultimately a part of the business, not contained within a PR, marketing or digital department. It’s going to be a tricky sail if half your crew isn’t on board. You will no doubt need help navigating social media platforms; the results they churn up and to possibly keep up with the consumer and the technology. But while the skills needed to manage the community may lie with a few, ideas that shape a brand wide social strategy should flow from everyone. Like with most things that can impact a business so greatly, it’s a process that needs to originate from the top down and be embraced by all, not just a single discipline within the business.
Brands limit themselves in their vision of what social can do for them. It’s not just a tool for marketing or customer management. It is one of the most widely used mediums today to connect with consumers. A half-baked strategy on social media can be very damaging for a brand. With the resources available today, opportunities within social media are more exciting than ever before. Think about this statistic; it took 75 years for the telephone to reach 50 million users. The internet can do it in 4 years. Turn your message into an app like Draw Something or Angry Birds and you can reach that number in less than 60 days.
Connecting with people in such gloriously short timeframes is giving brands the freedom to share quick short bursts of creativity. Each campaign, post, blog, tweet has the capacity to be a sharp hit on the chisel that shapes the brand, if well thought out and executed. Consider also, the part social media platforms play. Think of the €2.6 billion impact Facebook has on the economy in the UK and you can start to understand how rooted we are on a global scale within these platforms. The internet and social media platforms allow you to execute with ease. They enable you to deliver experiences to the right group of people via a medium they understand and a speed which is beyond comparison to anything we’ve seen before.
This is not to underestimate the social consumer either. They aren’t locked into any one platform. The fact that these platforms are so fluid has created a generation of people who are agile and adaptable. Maybe that’s why a third of British social media users don’t use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram or LinkedIn. People are loyal to your brand because of the experiences you create for them online, because of the content you share with them, not because you have a Facebook page. Start thinking of those as your priorities and your investment in social will transcend the social network you use. If Facebook ceased to exist tomorrow and you didn’t have the ability to innovate and remain connected with your consumers, or even idealistically, they didn’t come looking for you – you’ve been focusing on the hammer, not the home.
Perhaps a way to steer things in the right direction is to bring in a target range so different parts of the business can come together and focus on a common aim. No more Russian roulette. Instead of passing the gun around and inflicting uncertainty and confusion, a team that understand social, collates ideas, guides contribution, recons opportunities and shares learning. A social command centre at the heart of the business could result in a more unified strategy and a much stronger online presence for any brand.