Who Should Own Social Media at Your Company?

It's a hotly debated question amongst organizations and corporations, and one that we've pondered ourselves as a leading creative staffing firm. Where do you stand in the great social media ownership debate?

It doesn't matter what your headcount or market share are when it comes to social media ownership – even smaller shops and agencies struggle with knowing which is the "right" department to manage their social media presence. But before you let the debate get the best of you, remember that it's not really about you. Social media is ultimately about who you're speaking to: your customers.

Reminder: Corporate Social Media is About the Customer

Customers – whether current, former or potential – make a choice to follow and engage with your company on social media channels. Which is to say, they find – or hope to find – value in the content and brand messages you share with them. If the content isn't valuable, they may just as easily choose not to engage. That's why selecting the right person or people to manage your social media presence is so important.

Now that we've re-established who social media is really about, let's get back to the question at hand: Who should own social media at your company? The case can be made for nearly every department. PR knows how to build relationships and manage crises and reputations. Customer service understands how to handle support issues. Sales has the right angle and bottom line-driven approach. Marketing is skilled when it comes to promoting offers and owned content. Even the CEO is a viable option as someone who knows the company inside and out.

So who should own social media when there are so many able contenders?

Infographic: Survey Says the Jury's Out

When we asked more than 400 advertising and marketing executives who should own social media, the response was split. See our infographic below for the complete results.

To get to the bottom of not just who should own social media, but why, I've broken the answer into three sub-explanations. And here they are:

1. Know Your Company's Goals – Be Consistent When Promoting Its Core Messaging

Social media is not about departmental goals or strategies; it's about company goals and strategies, and ideally those should be centered on the customer – whether that means fielding inquiries, responding to complaints or promoting relevant and useful content. Amidst all the talk of establishing ownership, don't lose sight of what social media is actually about at an organization: engaging an audience.

Step number one when engaging an audience on social media: Make sure you're focused on your company's messaging and not who's promoting it. Social media should be seamless and unified; your followers should never detect a change in voice or positioning unless it's intentional, like if someone from Technical Support chimes in on Twitter to assist with an issue. 

2. Be Aligned – Put Company Politics Aside

Here's the part individuals and departments often struggle with: putting the greater good of the company above the greater good of yourself or your department. It's hard. It goes against all of our natural inclinations as unique, one-of-a-kind people who want to feel autonomous rather than robotic. But a company, like an individual, functions as an entity with a singular purpose. The challenge arises when one cohesive message has to be conveyed by many individuals.

Social media is most effective when you have an integrated plan that is, dare I say, department agnostic (let's classify department agnostic as concept-based metaphorical jargon). That means getting all the necessary stakeholders on board (or in the loop, if you will) and working as a cross-department team to promote your messaging across all company social channels. 

3. Have a Social Strategy – Leverage the Strengths of Multiple Departments 

Followers of your company don't think of your social channels as an outlet you use to talk at them; they think of your social channels as a place to stay informed, ask questions, get assistance or be entertained. Let's say someone has a specific concern with your product or service. They don't think, "Maybe I should just call customer support because I know PR owns this Facebook page." They think, "I have an issue that I want solved right away. I wonder how quickly someone will respond on Facebook." Companies that use social media effectively are prepared to handle the good, the bad and the unlikely, and doing so takes more than a department – it takes a social media village. 

When setting a social media ownership strategy, start by implementing a single, transparent process between all involved departments, and then identify functional roles within those groups. In a sense, you're creating a sort of social media dream team which will help streamline your messaging and responses as well as help sort who's doing what to avoid overlap, or worse, oversight. 

It probably makes sense to have someone from Customer Service managing complaints and product or service questions while Marketing or Communications may be best suited to engage with followers by promoting owned content or posing questions to the community. When you put together a social media dream team, everyone is working to their strengths while simultaneously working to achieve the same goals.

Social Media Ownership Comes Full Circle

Can you succinctly answer the question, "Who should own social media at your company?" (Hint: Almost everyone.) Just in case, here are the talking points:

  • It's not about you, it's about your audience and customers.
  • Your organization should be aligned on messaging – no matter who is sharing it.
  • Have an integrated plan that draws from the strengths of multiple departments.

Maybe the question needs to be rephrased. Perhaps it shouldn't be who – as in department – should own social media, but rather who – as in people – has the skills to manage it adeptly. Chances are the answer is a lot of people. Now we're getting somewhere. After all, what's more social than working together?

Who Should Own Social Media: The Infographic

How is social media managed at your company? Check out our handy infographic below and then let us know who calls the social shots and whether that's working for your organization.