Who should own social media?

I am proud to have been invited to chair a panel at the iStrategy conference (http://istrategyconference.com/events/london-13/) in London at the end of this month.

We will be discussing social media and in particular crisis management and on the panel we will have, among other, a number of leading PR practitioners. PR agencies are of course well set up to manage a brand crisis but social media goes a long way beyond crisis management, and PR generally.

For instance social media can be used for market research: what are people saying about your brand; what are your competitors saying about the market?

And it can be used to inform marketing and communication strategies: what keywords to focus on in search marketing, what benefits to promote in messaging?

And it can of course be used for customer service where staff are empowered to respond to consumers with problems or complaints (or just as important, with positive messages).

So should own social media if it is too important to be owned by PR? Or is this actually a rather meaningless question, similar perhaps to “who should own profitability?” I think it is. A brand’s profile on social media is something that needs to be understood and owned by the whole company. But that inevitably raises a problem. If different people in a company respond to an individual message the result may well be very messy and confused. So what should happe?

Well, in my view marketing, advertising, design, new product development and general management should certainly be listening hard to what is being said. But they shouldn’t necessarily be responding. Any conversations that require a response from the brand need to be identified and then farmed out to one person to respond to – perhaps some will be sent to PR and others to customer service. (Not all conversations of course should be responded to.) This process would imply the need for a new role where someone is given the responsibility to “triage” social media into “do not respond”, “respond as customer service” (this won’t always be public), and “respond to the public”. And perhaps it is this role that needs to be owned by PR.

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