Who should own social media

This post is one that I meant to write for a couple of years and I never got to it.  My experience in corporate, Small and medium business and consulting showed me that who and which department owns social media within an organization possesses the power to foster success or bring failures to an organization’s social media programs.

Why? simply because social media programs  greatly depends on governance, budget and resources.

A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled upon a recent study by Ragan/NASDAQ OMX Corporate Solutions that revealed that “Ownership” of social media is murky, and the question may even become passé as numerous departments within organizations jump in. Slightly more than 70 percent of respondents say marketing is involved, with 69 percent reporting that public relations played a role. Corporate communications trailed, with 49 percent.”  I am not surprised at all. After years in the digital and social media industry, I find that organizations and businesses are still trying to figure out what social media is and is not, its capabilities and limitations; most importantly companies are figuring out – often the hard way – what factors contribute to the success of their social media programs, tactics, or strategies.  In short, how to cut through the buzzwords and make sense of the money invested. This video from Adobe should pretty much sum up what I mean. 


What organizations struggle the most with is where social media should fits in order to give optimal results. Social media is almost always sitting in a Marketing department with most often than not, a traditional marketer looking over digital and social media.

Who owns social media?

Who owns social media?
Source : www.dreamstime.com

Because of the inherent nature of their profession, PR and marketing practitioners have been assigned the ownership and responsibility of social media. I can see why this would happened in the early days of social media; Communications and Marketing  were the low hanging fruit and their tactics ranged from quickly creating artificial buzz, variously collecting Likes and followers, duplicating content from Print to Website and then on a blog back to newsletter (You get the picture – literally). Today, Social media in the most advanced organization have morphed into Social Business. Social marketing and Social recruitment are given more attention and budget.  Studies after studies come out showing that decision-makers are loosing trust in marketers.

I agree that Social media at the very least requires a team effort between Marketing and Sales.  I would go even further than  and say that Social media should be governed at a firm level and be a top-down initiative – the same way project management office has its own dedicated team serving throughout the organization. As a social media practitioner, I participated in a firm-wide initiative spearheaded by a top-level Communications officer whose objective was to propose and implement a governing body around social media. I thought it was brilliant and much needed in the trenches. As you can imagine, within this big organization, there were pockets of siloed social media activities, most often irrelevant to the larger business objectives and brand guidelines. Don’t get me wrong. I am all for encouraging the use of social media but it needs to be done the right way. Although one department was given the ownership of social media, resources and budgets were residing elsewhere, within another team or area of the firm, making it quasi impossible to advance firm-wide strategic initiative. Sitting at the same table key stakeholders was no small task and mainly highlighted how social media was misunderstood internally.

As social media matures, the industry and organizations learn from major social media fails, loss of business opportunities, angry customers lashing out on brands, and a bitter-sweet realisation that Social media could not just be left to interns (nothing wrong with interns but Social media means business). The professional and personal  convergence that social media brings in can be misleading as most people know of social media and think they now know enough to understand the business implication of doing business in the digital landscape. The speed at which social media moves and the youth of the industry also contribute to giving social media this uncontrollable misconception.

This is  why I think giving ownership of Social media to any one department because it seems to naturally fall under their watch is terribly short-sighted and can ultimately hurt the efforts the organization puts elsewhere. I think it is time that Social media shapes up and that organization give it a serious thought.  Along with some of my peers, I’ve been shouting at the top of my lungs that social media should come out of whatever department it is naturally or safely tucked away in order to benefit the WHOLE organization. Social media is not a tool. Social affects  the way we do business, we relate and serve customers, we think about content and how we produce and share it, the way customers engages with us and also how the organization is seen by stakeholders. Social should be infused in the organization operations. That is why the term Social Business makes more sense. Social media have shown it can seriously damage the brand image thus affect its relationship with customers, business partners and ecosystem . Recent examples include HMV’s social media meltdown and the green screen in support of the Life of PI visual effects artists.

What do you think?

By Karima-Catherine Goundiam

About Author: karimacatherine

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