Its an age-old question. Well, at least as long as social media has been a driving force in our marketing mix. And while it seems like forever that most of us have been discussing social media, its a mere nano-second in the history of marketing. Yet, few marketing shifts have created such a debate.
Why? Because its a loose cannon. The public’s perception of our brand, and thus the reality of our brand, is now completely at their mercy. Their comments and their thoughts, regardless of how accurate or flawed, become reality.
Truth is now defined by the wisdom of crowds. And with more and more companies understanding this power and what means to their bottom line, the question of ownership and control of the medium becomes a sticky subject.
In my opinion, the heart of the question for businesses is not who controls it but who is responsible for the return on investment? And this is why this question becomes so important.
To determine which team is best suited to drive response from this relatively new medium, we must first understand this truism: Social Media is owned by your audience, not by your brand. Your company can build and manage online networks but its your customers, clients, investors, the general public or even employees – anyone that has an opinion and uses social media channels to broadcast them that owns your social media.
Own it? Or Control it?
I define controlling social media as initiating, staging, and then directing online engagement in such a way that the audience promotes your business in a positive vs. negative manner. Left alone, this online engagement tends to be survival of the fittest where the loudest and most frequently posted comments become truth, regardless of accuracy.
So a brands best strategy to control social media to its advantage is to determine which internal or external group can best initiate and direct those engagements. So who is best suited to manage conversations? Who is experienced at designing campaigns to drive brand awareness and get dialogue started?
Ive seen organizations initially hand over this responsibility to their IT department, as they did with Web sites 10 years ago, because marketers did not understand the technology. And like with Web site development, eventually the marketing department took control as campaigns started forming to leverage the technologies most of which are now available through 3rd party networks such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. However, marketing departments are experienced at broadcasting announcements and less at creating and managing conversations.
If social media is about conversations – and social media engagement is about managing those conversations – then the best team to design, manage and track Social Media campaigns is the PR department.
Community Management: Decades in the Making.
A good PR professional can:
- Skilfully present your company’s brand in a positive light even in the face of the most negative circumstances.
- They are experienced at identifying & directing influencers in the marketplace and using them to promote your brand and message to their audience.
- Finally, they understand how to craft key message tactics that initiate dialogue and maintain the public’s attention to a point of view thats advantages to their client.
Sound familiar? Its the definition of good social media marketing: Initiating online conversations (building network profiles, etc), identifying online influencers (blogger outreach, etc) and managing online conversations (community management, etc).
So while many departments (HR, C-Suite, Customer Service, Marketing, etc) will need to engage in online activities, theres only one thats been practicing how to manage this online channel for decades: the PR department.
So do yourself a favor, look at whose researching, designing and directing your social media today. Do they have the necessary training, experience and skill set to leverage real-time communications? If not, you should be re-focusing your attention on the value of PR engagement firms or internal personnel.
Agree? Disagree? As always, this blog is about dialogue and debate. I appreciate all your points of view.
Feed Your Community, Not Your Ego
by Sam Fiorella
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