Social Media Marketing

Who Owns Social Media Strategy?

Mashable did a great post yesterday asking the question “Which Department Owns Social Media,” which points out how lines have really blurred between departments as companies look to broaden their social media efforts.  While marketing/PR are a natural home for much activity, customer support issues are also being handled by support departments, and the rest of the company is eager to get involved — so how does a company manage all that?

According to an eConsultancy report, about 35% of respondents said social media was being managed by the digital marketing team, and 19% said social media efforts are being managed by a cross-functional team.  The chart below from the survey shows the results more broadly:

I’m currently going through the process of defining this at my company–mostly with regard to building thought leadership and communities (as opposed to using social media for customer support), and have defined it at previous companys, as well.  The approach that I’ve seen work originates in marketing — usually via a cross-functional team comprised of corporate marketing, PR, digital marketing, customer marketing, etc.  Here are few steps that I’ve followed to good success:

  • Get marketing’s ducks in a row first.  The rush to be out there conversing is definitely ON, and many people in various departments are probably eager to engage and might be asking questions about what they should do. Conversely, other would-be evangelists might be holding back for fear of saying the wrong thing. However, before you can guide them about how to engage in various communities, you have to have guidelines established–in my opinion, these should be driven by the marketing team — the same teams that handle communications.  One approach I’ve taken is to form a Social Media Task Force of involved marketing team members to establish strategy, excution responsibilities, and rules of engagement for both the marketing depart and the company at large. 
  • Be careful about how you leverage agencies.  An interactive/PR agency can be a critical part of both  helping shape social media strategy and handling some execution. The study above cites only 2% of companies completely outsourcing social media to an agency, but I suspect this percentage is actually higher based on conversations I’ve had with marketing peers at other companies. Success in social media depends on compelling content, consistency, authenticity and passion.  Its difficult to seem passionate and authentic if no on internally is driving social media engagement — communities will see through this.
  • Make marketing team’s execution a well-oiled machine.  Once strategy, tactics and guidelines have been established, and you are making forays into building community and getting your contributions out there, take some time to make sure the marketing team engine is humming along with good, synchronized execution well before broadening efforts out to other companies.  It is much easier to coordinate the involvement of others in the company if everyone on the marketing team already has a process and flow established.
  • Expand to the rest of the company.  Now that marketing is fully engaged, its time to expand to the rest of the company.  This should start by explaining whys, hows and whats to everyone.  Why the company is engaged in social media, what channels you are leveraging, and guidelines as to how content should be posted.  As this point, expanding the Social Media Task Force to include participants from all relevant orgs might make sense so there can be a departmental voice at the table as major decisions are made.

These steps have helped me ensure that at each expansion point in social media strategy, the right departmental owners are at the table and execution starts right with a small core group before expanding outward.  I’d love to hear what steps others have taken to this effect!


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