So earlier tonight, I attended Chris Heuer’s Social Media Club at the offices of CBS Interactive. The topic of tonight’s session was “Who Owns Social Media” and had a panel of public relations, advertising, and marketing folks moderated by Seesmic’s own Cathy Brooks. The discussion seemed to center on the differences between marketers and folks who deal with public relations. One particular issue that I seemed to take away was that it was more bias towards public relations and that those in PR are more capable of interacting and being authentic with audiences than marketers.
But I’d like to bring it back to something Chris Heuer mentioned near the end of the panel discussion: “Who is responsible for the success AND the failure of social media in a company?” I believe that ultimately it’s the marketer. It’s the role of the marketer to reach out and affect external communication with all audiences. Yes, the public relation & communications team has some involvement but I would recommend that they serve more on an “advisory” role. The creation of social media efforts and strategies should come from the workings of the marketing department in collaboration and consultation with PR folks. However, the responsibility for success and failure is with marketers. They will execute the strategy and find use of applications like Facebook, Twitter, Brightkite, blogs, etc. and also respond to comments posted on the site and on other areas.
I am not advocating that marketers are to go in it alone. Rather, there is a consultation with PR teams and also:
- General counsel
- Product Development
- Information Technology
Marketers will be the ones responsible for figuring out where to reach the audience, how to determine the Return on Investment, and how to analyze its success through the use of web metrics, budgeting, and market research. And IF the strategy fails, then instead of simply issuing a press release or doing damage control, chances are that it would require a redirection of strategy falling in marketing. The marketing department CAN also be authentic in their conversations but will require some cross-training with all teams to make sure that they are speaking in common tongue and aren’t using too many “buzz words”. This goes with anyone who attempts to do social media.
I believe that everyone has a valid point in their argument as to who owns or is responsible for social media execution for their company, but in my opinion, the marketers have a better understanding of the audience since they are at the front-lines seemingly attracting consumers and are moving offensively.