Who owns social media – something to get off my chest!

Right, this is really starting to bother me… towards the middle of last year I remember attending a “Social Media Briefing” at Clarion Communications, overall it was a good event, I only attended as a colleague from my then employer was speaking, but Clarion were making a clear play which their MD spelt out: “social media is the natural realm of the PR agency” – and Clarion had made a big investment in people, advisors and tools to show that they were the PR agency to do it. Good for them.

That was over a year ago and really I thought we had moved on, I thought the social media and WoM marketing communities had realised that social sites (take your pic: Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, Blogs, Forums etc etc) are peer to peer communication tools, one to one or one to many, but tools none the less. Now let’s all be really clear: when I say tool I mean tool like a telephone or a PC, or a photocopier, or (more appropriately) MSN, Gtalk, Email, Snail mail even. No one owns these tools, there isn’t a dept in a big business who “owns” the phones or IM or email, sure there are IT teams, operations teams and post rooms who make sure these communications tools work and run smoothly but most departments in the organisation use them to do different things in different ways, social is the same:

  • PR and marketing teams use social for outreach, advocate programmes, PR campaigns etc
  • Digital agencies and teams may want to use social with more of a campaign focus, this can work if done well and aligned with ongoing advocate and detractor engagement
  • Customer service teams can engage with those people having problems to help them
  • R+D and product managers can listen and learn, so can research managers and, well, a lot of different depts.
  • Some R+D teams may reach out to the community to stimulate focussed feedback
  • This can happen at a global or local level
  • These are just some very simple samples – there are many more ways different teams can use social.

So, are PR agencies best equiped to help customer service or R+D or research, are all PR agencies even equipped to help with long term relationship building with key advocates in social? Probably not. Equally are digital agencies or ad agencies best equipped to help PR teams or cust service etc etc. No.

Well that was easy, so why are we still having this kind of debate:

Let’s realise that no “team” or “department” can own this space, in fact, if anyone owns the space it would be the community – they decide what tools they will use, and if you want to get value out of social you need to find, listen and engage using those tools – whatever they may be.


3 responses to “Who owns social media – something to get off my chest!

  1. Might agree on some of what you say, but enjoyed what you said here:

    ” they decide what tools they will use”…I think the great debate of ownership really refers to “influence” ie. Who influences these users to use certain tools and become a part of new innovations.

    Social is not as community owned as some might think, they REACT to what organisations, brands, teams or departments put together and present to them…the only problem is whether or not the community buys in.

    • Thanks for the comment JD, your right the community reacts to what the brand says and does but the community is also self organising, forums and review sites spring up freely and without control or input from the brand, people decide what platform they want to use, sometimes that is related to a decision made by a brand but we have seen many a spectacular failure of branded social networks indicating it is not a primary driver.

  2. Have you ever considered about adding a little bit more than just your articles?
    I mean, what you say is valuable and all. However think of if you added some great photos or videos
    to give your posts more, “pop”! Your content is
    excellent but with images and clips, this blog could certainly be one of the best in its field.
    Terrific blog!

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