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Who owns social media?

Who owns social media tug of war photo

It was more than 10 years ago when I first debated the question who owns social media. Last week I spoke on the same topic in Zagreb for the European Lotteries Association to an audience of public relations, marketing and social media professionals from across Europe.

Two thoughts struck me while creating my new PowerPoint deck. First, how the answer is the same today as it was then. Second, the absurdity of the fact we are still asking the question.

Some of the platforms might be different, but the basic principles haven’t changed.

The question is really about which department or function within a company or organisation should be in charge of social media. Too often it’s a tug of war between different departments. Or people and departments will just go off and do their own thing with too little regard as to what others are doing.

It’s daft question as it’s a bit like asking which function should be responsible for meeting and talking to people. The answer to that is obvious… the function that needs to have the meeting just has it. The people responsible might get help from people in other functions, but they wouldn’t usually send those people to the meeting instead of themselves. Just as if you were invited to a party you wouldn’t usually send a friend to attend on your behalf. Because that would be daft.

Social media needs to be social

It’s the same with social media. The clue’s in the name. To be social you really need to do it yourself. You don’t usually get a mate or work colleague to be friendly on your behalf.

So every department or function should be responsible for its own social media. Marketing will need to do its marketing stuff. Human resources and internal communications will need to do its stuff to support recruitment, retention and engagement. Media relations will need to listen to what journalists are saying and interact with them. Public affairs will need to do the same with politicians, government officials and policy makers. Customer service will listen to and talk to customers. You get the idea.

Each specialism is best placed to use social media in the way it needs to. Just the same as each will use email and the telephone in the way that it needs to.

But it goes beyond just allowing and enabling each department and function to use their own social media accounts on the platforms they need to use.

It’s also about enabling individuals to use their own social media presence to help them do their job. To work these social media accounts will be both personal and professional. Because that’s what being social is about. That’s why there is ‘small talk’ in business meetings about sport, fashion, art, culture etc.

However, if you’re now coming out in a cold sweat and panicking about ‘losing control’ then stop worrying. I’m not suggesting a free for all where everyone does what they want. Rather, I’m recommending that you adopt a new approach.

The first step is to ask why. Why do you want to use use social media? What are your objectives? I don’t mean ridiculous ones like likes, reach or followers. I mean what are your real business or organisational objectives. Once you understand your objectives then you can think about who needs to do it and what they need to do.

The reality is social media platforms are now so all pervasive that you are going to need to need to use them some how.

The second step is to set up some sort of governance so everyone that needs to is using it in the best way they can.

Public relations makes sure everyone is using social media effectively and safely

This means there is going to be a central point that’s responsible for the governance and whose primary role is to encourage, enable and facilitate everyone else to do it safely and effectively. I’ve long argued that the most logical place for this is public relations or corporate communications. PR is the most logical place because it’s the function that has a 360 degree view of an organisation or business. Its role is to think about the reputational and relationship aspects of every single part of the organisation. Most functions don’t need to to have such a broad perspective. Marketing certainly doesn’t as its primary function is selling so it quite rightly thinks mainly about customers. Other stakeholders don’t get sufficient consideration. In contrast, an essential element of creating a public relations strategy and plan is to consider all stakeholders.

This doesn’t mean public relations should ‘do’ social media because every part of the organisation needs to ‘do’ it for itself. PR’s role is to coordinate, curate, create, facilitate, govern, enable and generally ensure that it gets done properly.

If you want help and advice in how you can use social and digital media more effectively and successfully in your organisation then please get in touch.

I’ve just discovered I last blogged about this in September 2017 and ironically the post was also called ‘Who owns social media?’

The PowerPoint deck from the European Lotteries Association.

And who better than Aretha Franklin and Annie Lennox to remind you about doing it yourself 🙂

Stuart Bruce

International Public Relations Adviser | Trainer | Author | Media Commentator | Conference Speaker | University Lecturer | Online PR | Digital Corporate Communications | Crisis Communications | Digital Public Affairs

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