Jan 12, 2011

The Enterprise and Social Media Ownership

I recently finished reading a preview copy of The Now Revolution by Jay Baer and Amber Naslund, which is slated for release later this month, in which the authors argue convincingly that social networking and technology have changed consumer behavior and expectations to such a degree that businesses are required to shift their communications, sales, support, product development and customer service practices accordingly – and quickly – if they hope to be successful in the coming years.

I think the authors are spot-on.  But as I read, one big hairy question took shape: Who owns your organization’s  social media presence?

Baer and Naslund addressed this, saying that soon, asking that question is going to be akin to asking, “Who owns the telephone?”  But as organizations start adopting social media and adapting to life in social networks, this question is worth picking apart, because in the answers are guidelines and opportunities.  And it’s important to start asking this question within our organizations:  I frequently post this question to PR and marketing pros, and generally don’t get much of an answer.  As Baer and Naslund illustrate, this is a looming problem for brands.

So, who owns social media in the organization?

Is it marketing?  Certainly marketers know what sort of messaging generates attention.  But for a brand to successfully navigate social networks – and benefit from having a presence therein – the audience’s attention must be gained, and maintained.

Maybe it’s PR?  The PR pros are the company’s master storytellers, have long experience in developing and maintaining relationships with journalists, and are no strangers to dealing with delicate situations and defending brands. Without a doubt, PR must have a hand in the daily tactics and the strategic planning. And the cultivation of some influentials probably does belong in PR.  But influential bloggers and big-deals on Twitter are not the only members of the audience worthy of cultivation.  All it takes is one ticked off customer with a smart phone and WiFi to cause havoc for a brand.

Of course one can argue that the sales organization has a stake in this game. Representatives with territories defined by industry sector or geography can certainly use social networking to develop relationships with – and visibility among – their clients and prospects.  Sales has a vested interest in anything a brand can do to generate interest in the marketplace.

How about customer service?  People are increasingly turning to Twitter and Facebook to get satisfaction – or make a plea for urgent help when running into roadblocks and the 800 number has a double-digit wait-time. Social networks enable swift communication between brands and their markets – and connected consumers expect swift attention and service.

Product development also has a vested interest – social networks are teeming with all manner of intelligence, influence and feedback.

In my mind, the enterprise owns social media – even if the enterprise doesn’t know it yet.

Fact is, pretty much every customer-facing group has a stake in defending and supporting their brand in social networks.   And increasingly, brands are fundamentally changing their structures and recalibrating everything from team objectives to tactics to accommodate and take advantage of social channels – exactly the sort of cultural shift advocated by Baer and Naslund.

Authored by Sarah Skerik, vice president – social media, PR Newswire

Image courtesy of Flickr user Ramkarthikblogger

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