If you ask 10 different people within an organization, you’re likely to get 10 different answers to the question “Who should own social media in your organization?” I think that’s the wrong question to ask. A better approach might be to look at each area of your organization to determine how social media can open lines of communication, improve efficiencies, reduce costs or help to generate more revenue.
That said, PR leads digital communications at 51% of organizations, while Marketing leads 40.5% of the time, according to the 2009 Digital Readiness Report. The report was produced by the pressroom, Korn/Ferry International, and PRSA. It makes sense that PR would lead social media in most organizations since most social media activities revolve around communicating with audiences and producing content – responsibilities that have fallen squarely on PR for some time. I think we’ll see more departments take ownership of their social media programs, independent from PR or marketing in the future. For example, your Support organization might use Twitter to respond to common support issues or Product Management may use a Facebook Group to gather feedback on a new product beta. Of course, PR or Marketing will have some involvement (as will Legal) in the process.
If your social media programs call for audience targeting, message strategy, and a regular flow of content and interaction with external audiences, PR is best equipped to deal with these programs. On the other hand, if your social media program includes customer testimonial videos, customer communities, or user forums, there may be other departments in your organization with the skills necessary to lead these initiatives.
According to the study, the most common areas PR leads digital communication are blogging, microblogging, and social networking. The marketing team is more likely to lead email marketing, search engine marketing, and online advertising programs. With most of the organizations I’ve worked with, marketing would assume ownership of all these areas, with PR serving in a subordinate role to marketing. Each organization knows best which people and departments are most likely to find success leading social media programs, so I think the structure will vary drastically depending on what types of organizations or programs you’re talking about.
Regardless of who you put in charge of your social media programs, you need to remember who the real boss is; your target audiences. If you’re building social media programs to target consumers, they are in charge. You need to listen more than you have with traditional marketing initiatives. Give customers more control in the process and you’re likely to be rewarded for your efforts, in terms of customer loyalty, strong brand awareness, and more return on marketing investment.
One thing is for sure in reviewing this report, social media skills are in high demand at most organizations today. The more social media experience you have, the more likely you will be to find new opportunities in what appears to be a slow job market. The report found that social networking skills are important for PR job candidates, with 80% of respondents saying knowledge of social networking is important or very important, compared to 82% that said traditional media relations skills are important. A good mix of both will give you the best opportunities for your first job, next job, or advancement within your current organization.
The 2009 Digital Readiness Report surveyed 278 PR, marketing, and HR professionals over six weeks in this past spring.