Who owns your social media?

You’d be surprised how many people, both agencies and clients, have a hard time figuring this out.

There are two things happening at once that are creating an atmosphere of confusion:

• There is a desperate rush of late-adopters fighting to grab their piece of the “social media” pie, and

• The skills needed cut cross traditional agency, marketing and communication roles

Many people, who do not really understand what is going on, simply add “social media” to the tasks of their already overloaded digital media (internet) departments. After all, social media is all about technology, right?

Well, no. While digital media skills can be needed to develop really cool interactive or animated content, the basics of using the most common platforms (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIN, Foursquare etc.) require no specialized training at all. They’re intuitively easy to use. That’s the whole frickin’ point.

What you really have to find out is whether your digital media department cares about, uses, and keeps up with social media trends. Ours does, here at Acart, but that’s because we have a strong strategic focus for our online communications. Other, more technically-oriented digital teams, may not. And you can’t expect them to. It’s not their job.

So social media is your media department’s responsibility, right? They really understand how to reach target audiences. And they definitely have an important role in understanding and planning the paid advertising that piggybacks on social media (Facebook social ads, branded online quizzes and games, YouTube inline ads, pre-rolls and home page sponsorships). But hopefully most of the exposure you get on social media will be earned.

“Earned media”? Sounds like a job for PR! And PR people are particularly well-positioned to contribute — as long as they are up-to-date — with their focus on strategy, popular trends, messaging and brand.

Wait a minute. “Brand?” That’s a job for traditional agency people! We’re the ones who bring our clients’ brands to life with all those questions, and strategic exercises, and the resulting logos and slogans and jingles and ads and graphic standards and things.

A brand is much more than that, though. It always has been about a deeper connection with customers and audiences. Now that connection is mutual, instantaneous and very public.

With their strategic and creative muscle, ad people are well-positioned to be the creators of what is known as “branded content” like online videos or really neat online publicity stunts. But after the fun is over, someone has to keep the conversation going with your community. Are your “admen” ready for that level of commitment?

Social media draws from digital, media, PR and advertising skill sets all at once. On one hand, it’s easy enough to master the basics that kids do it. On the other, really “getting it” takes a lot of time and effort.

So I ask again, who owns your social media?

I’ll tell you who should own it, and that’s whoever truly understands your brand and knows how to live it online.

Soon, hopefully, more organizations will value and seek out the mix of skill sets that make the social media brand champion:

• The ability to communicate strategically (written or otherwise) in an authentic brand voice
• The courage to put that voice “out there” and respond appropriately to criticism
• An understanding of how the latest online technical advances translate into opportunities
• A true, human, interest in the people (not just “target markets”) who make up your community
• The connections to catch the latest and greatest memes and trends before they go mainstream, and to effectively share your own

Do you know anyone like that?

If you don’t, you should. Look within your organization, find a committed partner, hire one. Or stop complaining that you “don’t have the resources” to take part in the most important change to the media landscape since the invention of the printing press, and get engaged all by yourself.

We are all in the social media business now.


[Image via Design You Trust]

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