Who Should “Control” Social Media Within a Company?

Mar 22nd, 2010 | By | Category: Social Media

By Rick Alcantara

Who should “control” social media within a company is anything but cut and dry.  It’s like asking, “What department delivers the greatest value.” The answer apparently depends upon whom you ask. A public relations person will likely say “PR” while a marketer will almost certainly indicate “Marketing”.

“I think Public Relations is best suited to drive social media,” says Chris Bechtel, CEO at iPressroom. “Social media best practices really call for jargon-free, clear, and authentic communications – which PR pros are best trained to provide.”

Philadelphia-based PR Strategist Jim DeLorenzo agrees. “Social media is all about interaction with the “public” which last time I checked was a vital part of our training and role as public relations professionals.”

While most of the 30 respondents to my recent LinkedIn forum question felt that HR and IT should play a supporting role in managing the social media function, only one thought IT should be responsible for controlling it.

“The better question, according to Rick Simmons, president at Dinkum Interactive, might be who should monitor it and the answer has to be IT and marketing.”

Not everyone agreed. “IT enables the technology but does not usually know the strategy behind social media objectives,” says Anthony Cirillo, ABC, owner of Fast Forward Consulting.

Similarly, Mary Deming Barber, communications consultant at The Barber Group, says, “Social media is about engagement and conversation, neither of which are strengths of IT or HR. Beyond that, the decision to place ‘control’ in PR, marketing, communications or other seems to be based on an individual company and its structure.”

Several of the survey respondents indicated that the answer to the question is situational. “If it is for lead generation then maybe sales, says Patrick Murphy, director at SiliconCloud.com, “but for raising brand awareness then maybe PR.”

Says Parissa Behnia, VP at the Pasfarda Arts and Cultural Exchange, “In instances of customer complaints, the voice of social media belongs to the PR function. If extending offers or making multiple touch points about offers/brands, then the messaging belongs to Marketing.”

Judith Harlan, owner of Web Words at Work, says, “I put social media under marketing. But I’d also set it up so designated individuals in each department are on the social media project team, with authority to post department-specific comments.”

In advising his introductory rhetoric students at Florida Atlantic University, Gary Brooten advises that we should “never offer a universal answer for a question that is sensitive to situational differences. It has to depend on the business goals, the resources and the skill sets on hand.”

The underlying question to this Catch-22 is whether anyone can really “control” social media. “That seems antithetical to the ethos and diversity of social media,” says Warren Levy, president at Compelling Meetings.

Collaboration across departments, according to several of the respondents, is key to any successful media operation. Jocelyn Canfield, owner of Communication Results, summed it up best. “Organizations are best served by collaboration, not control. PR, Marketing, HR, IR, Corp Communications all have a vested interest in effective social media activities, while IT and graphic design can be an important allies in seamless execution. If everyone feels ownership, everyone benefits.

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9 Comments to “Who Should “Control” Social Media Within a Company?”

  1. […] agreed. In a related post, Rick Alcantara in Who Should “Control” Social Media Within a Company? […]

  2. This makes the assumption that social media is corporate, not personal. The latter case is more appropriate and common; it’s accepted that IT/Marketing will have a view on how NOT to use social media, but they should have little involvement in what an individual does do.

  3. This is a very insightful article. I personally think that social media should be ran by either the marketing or public relations departments.

  4. Chris says:

    Phil-
    We’ve already seen the day when a “social media officer” is needed. Many college athletic departments already have “new media” directors or are using other such titles to designate the person responsible for overseeing social media. Someone needs to manage, monitor and mediate, but it needs to be in the midst of a collaborative community. Multiple uses within a department (IT, HR, etc.) doesn’t have to mean we don’t follow an overall strategy.

    I like Brian Solis’ line in his latest blog (which is a great resource), “If we do not participate and eventually lead online interaction related to our business, then we are walking a path toward oblivion.” We just have to figure out how to do it right in a way that fits who we are–and that will probably look different at every school, in every business. Luckily, we have a lot of resources out there to help!

  5. […] agreed. In a related post, Rick Alcantara in Who Should “Control” Social Media Within a Company? […]

  6. Phil Simon says:

    I have mixed feelings about this. Yes, collaboration is essential but, absent a clear “owner”, how can an organization enforce accountability?

    The problem is compounded by the fact that employees use social media for certain purposes, including recruiting and employee communication (HR) . PR/marketing/advertising use it for obvious purposes. Of course, IT needs to be involved.

    I’d hate to see the creation of a “Chief Social Media Officer”, but would that be beneficial?

  7. Howard James says:

    I agree with many of the respondents who suggested that social media programs should be collaborative. As an IT professional, particularly as I view it from an IT management perspective, the first thing to determine is who all the stakeholders are and clearly what they expect from social media. Ultimately, the contributors (content providers and support personnel) to the development and maintenance of the social media framework need to understand who the recipients of the content are, what they are looking for, and how best to deliver that content in a user-friendly, provocative way (i.e., in a way that will yield the response desired, whether it’s to purchase a product or spread the word in a certain way).
    Control should be placed in the hands of a project manager who would assure that each new component of the social media framework is implemented in such a way that all stakeholder demands are met within the context of the scope of that component. I’d view each such implementation as a new project (perhaps with a new project manager) taking into consideration the dynamic nature of business, technology, and stakeholder demands. And in every case, always align each initiative with objectives, goals, and company vision.

  8. It is a very interesting question, maybe not one correct answer. Maybe social media is like the family pet, we all have to take care of it?

  9. Terrie says:

    Interesting – how each segment of a company sees that they play a part in the Social Media part of a work day. I used to be a handbag designer, just as blogging was becoming “the new thing,” and I went to my boss saying we needed to develop an online presence, with an in-house brand specifically targeted to be marketed directly to consumers through it , and acting as a portal to the company as a whole. I(a designer/merchandiser) absolutely wanted to be the one controlling this new direction, despite the fact my job description was entirely about creating physical products for sale by others…..

    I think it is true that ALL segments of a company(sales, marketing, design, even HR!) should have a hand in putting out content, but they definitely do need to have some sort of cohesiveness. I really believe Social Media Director is a new job description that goes beyond simple Marketing, IT, PR…. yet all those departments do have valid input. My opinion – a separate person in charge, who interacts with each of the other departments. Each department, in turn, inputs their own social media form their unique perspective. On “campaigns” the Media Director coordinates a launch approach with everyone, and also keeps an eye on how the departments are evolving in their direction.

    If I didn’t run my own little t-shirt company and have to do ALL those jobs(design, marketing, sales…..) I would really enjoy being a Social Media Director!

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