- Responsibility for the social media channel within an enterprise is normally awarded to the organization that brings it to the enterprise based on a specific original need. However, this may not be the best place for it to reside long term.
- While marketing, public relations, IT and customer service can all make a strong case for social media ownership, the best solution may be the formation of a cross-functional team to optimize the total value of social media information.
Due to its broad scope of useful information, the social media channel is difficult to place into a specific department within the enterprise. Marketing and/or public relations departments often initiate and manage social media tracking programs within the enterprise, because the gathered information summarizes customer sentiment (good and bad) and often requires a rapid response to avoid public relations and marketing issues. I may have a natural bias on the issue, since I am deeply involved as an analyst tracking contact centers and customer care, but customer care groups have a right to be intimately involved in managing social media efforts based on the fact that they are the primary interface to the customer base in most corporations. Others have argued that IT shops have a right to manage social media streams because of the technical nature of the source information: Twitter, Facebook, etc. Smaller, less sophisticated organizations may simply assign social media tracking to a lower level or even a summer intern with a good understanding of the media streams and practical knowledge of how the information is created and by whom.
The truth is that there is no definitive correct answer to the question of who owns social media. However, social media is becoming an important factor in branding and company image, as well as customer support, and should not be allowed to wallow in an unorganized or even loosely organized manner within the corporation. Eventually, every company is likely to need to develop a social media policy in order to meet reporting procedures that are, or soon may be, mandated by government or business/trade organizations. A strong corporate social media policy will also help ensure that there is consistency throughout the enterprise regarding the management and use of social media information on both a corporate and personal level across the company employee base.
The subject needs to be approached at the corporate level and assigned to an interdisciplinary team headed by a proponent of social media usage in the enterprise. The team should include representatives from marketing, public relations, IT, customer service, human resources, legal and perhaps an ad agency, if appropriate. In other words, it should include any enterprise organization with a vested interest in company branding, image, customer care, customer satisfaction, advertising and promotion. The initial task would be setting up and managing the social media information streams available regarding customer sentiment and developing social media policies including prioritization of information, reaction methodologies and overall tracking of information. Then, the emphasis should be on how best to integrate social media information into the business so that intelligent and actionable information can be gleaned from the channel and put to work to improve the company’s posture in the marketplace.