There’s no doubt that social media is one of the more confounding things for marketers in recent memory. Even the Internet itself wasn’t as disruptive for marketers as the open, connected consumer-controlled conversations of the social Web. It’s a challenge that most companies will consider and reconsider for the foreseeable future.
One area that is challenging a company’s effectiveness in social media is answering the question, “who owns social media?” It’s understandable that ownership is causing so much trouble. On the surface, social media just is another channel. Traditionally, channels of information flow in one direction – from the brand to people. How, when and why a message gets out has an established set of rules. And, creating a message and paying for its dissemination is applied to someone’s budget. If you own the budget, you own the decision about what happens with that budget, the message, the channel and so on along long-established corporate assumptions and expectations.
It’s comfortable to put social media into this structure, and it’s easier to assign it to a specific department to “figure out” or to “handle.” But, some of those companies that have put social media into a silo are beginning to reconsider that approach.
The truth is, when determining who “owns” social media, you have to ask who “owns” the customer, or the public, or the stakeholder – because social media isn’t a mass medium. It involves interacting with individuals in aggregate. And, chances are, this type of interaction involves more than just marketing, PR, advertising, IT or yes, even legal.
When you take another step back, you can also view ownership through the lens of the conversation. Who owns the exchange of an idea, the image, or the feedback loop? These are all part of the social conversation. So, in the end, asking who owns the conversation gets more to the point than asking who owns the channel.
Unlike traditional channels, these channels are intended to be two-way mediums. Programs that aren’t set up to expect, encourage, entice and promote that two-way interaction treat social media like any other traditional channel. Unlike television, a print ad or even a press release, the content in these channels are intended to be consumed, shared, deconstructed, mashed up and responded to.
These are the inherent characteristics of social mediums that make them unlike other channels. And, it’s why the outcome of using social media is unlike the outcome of using the traditional channels marketers have used for years.
The dynamic nature of the medium calls for all hands on deck to be able to cultivate and manage the one-to-one, two-way conversation that happens directly with individuals in full view of everyone. The people who just saw the billboard you bought can now talk back – not through the billboard, but through social media, and you’ve missed an opportunity if you’re not able to respond. Your new customer who just spent two hours on the phone with your call center but still can’t install their software is Tweeting at you, and your lack of a response is apparent to all of the others watching the social discourse. Or, you’re experiencing an outage across the western portion of your service area and your customers are lining up on Facebook demanding updates.
These are all real issues. And, each of them requires coordination across different parts of the business. The same parts of the business that may have had trouble working together in the timeframes of traditional mediums driven by newspaper deadlines and insertion dates. Now, with the real real-time pressures of social channels, it’s more important than ever for everyone to understand their role and know that their job now includes helping the company address and meet the expectations of a connected world with connected customers and connected issues.
(From “Unfollowed: Pentagon Deletes Social Media Office” | Danger Room | Wired.com)
There is a path to integration. It’s not straight, it’s not easy, and it’s different for every brand. But, it will become increasingly important to brands who want to engage in these channels beyond what they’ve been able to so far. If you’re still running your social media presence in silos, it’s likely getting harder to:
1) See and show increasing degrees of measurable results
2) Grow your social communities – breadth, depth and reach
3) Manage the entire conversation about the brand – the good, the bad and the unimaginable
4) Create enough new, compelling content to keep the community engaged and interested enough to share with their friends
I’m going to tackle each of these points in another series of posts that will highlight what an increasing number of companies will experience this year, if they haven’t already – that social media isn’t the realm of one particular group or business area, but takes the entire organization to carry on a fruitful and sustainable conversation.