If everyone owns social media, then no one owns social media.
Ever work on a condominium committee? Everyone is an owner and little gets done.
Ownership is a strong word, especially for social tools, which are often credited with having a democratizing effect on the web. However, using it successfully requires leadership and decisiveness.
Writing on the SHIFT blog, Chris Penn, classifies the question as silly. His answer? Whoever can use it to help build your business, that’s who.
Penn’s thoughts mirror my own, though I’d further qualify social media as a role for the do-ers. There’s a difference between those that talk and those that do. Social media needs a champion to weave, both the tactics, and the teams together.
This question is old, it has its old critics and old champions. It’s also new, with new research, that attracts view points from multiple angles. But it never fails to unleash a firestorm of opinions that range from rants to disinterest.
A View through Lenses
From my vantage point, as an unabashed PR professional, PR is well positioned to champion social media efforts. PR pros understand, or ought to, the give and take of building relations, credibility, and how to leverage the power of third-party validation to work throughout the many touch points along the sales cycle.
PR, as a function, is part marketing, part editorial and part psychology. It’s a very powerful tool. Tobacco may well be politically incorrect today, but forget the product for a minute and consider the strategy: Edward Bernays single-handily doubled the market potential for the American Tobacco Company.
Clearly, these are the lenses I choose to view the world, but I’d like to believe I’ve proven my point in deed, more often than words, several times over.
PR owns a problem
PR makes its own bed. It’s consistently cited in studies as one of the fastest growing and most stressful lines of work. But every day I see anecdotal evidence of PR pros that classify themselves as recovering or former. Big thinkers too – leaders – or former leaders of our industry.
Why? For several reasons: We beat ourselves up at the drop of hat – tearing down others in an effort to build ourselves. Many of us are stuck in old-school thinking. The world has changed.
Strategy can still be as brilliant as Bernays’ but if new ways of execution are not adopted, they’ll never see the light of day.
PR SEO: A Case in Point
Not too long ago a very experienced and tenured PR pro looked me in the eye and said, “SEO is just key words.”
Sure. If that’s what you think, that’s less competition for me. Don’t worry about backlinks, anchor text, site speed or mapping, social sharing – the white papers accessed through Gmail and stored on Google Drive.
SEO is not just key words. The days of unbiased search, of agnostic search are over. Google is intentionally trying provide content that is most relevant – to the extent it hopes to be able to offer it to us before we even realized we were looking for it.
Further, this futuristic thought isn’t far away, it’s applicable to the entire web, and it sounds almost exactly like the strategy the father of PR implemented for tobacco.
Who owns social media?
I don’t like the word “own” it strikes me as Orwellian. But having managed both by committee and in leadership positions, I know that everyone is not an effective approach. Yes, companies should seek to maximize employee participation, encourage engagement and support those efforts with sound a social media policy.
Does PR have to own social? No. Always and never are two words to always remember never to use.
Is PR well-suited to champion social? In many case, yes. Every organization is unique, will have different approaches, goals and measures of success.
But in terms of social media leadership, everyone is not the answer.
Hiring? I’m looking for a new gig in the Raleigh-Durham area. Hire me! More info:
Strong candidate: PR | Content Marketing | Social Media
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This is a very interesting read Frank. In your blog you state, "everyone" is not the answer when it comes to social media ownership. In our company’s new blog, http://indicatemedia.com/chasing-perception-in-democracies/, we discuss something similar, the democracy of the internet.
What are your thoughts on, if everyone and no one owns social media, who is responsible for the virtual world it is creating and any possible abuses that may sprout? Is it the platforms, like in the case of Amazon we point out on our article? Or, since no one and everyone owns social media per se, is it the role of the community to monitor and squash abuse?
Actually Frank, Chris Penn's answer and mine are the same. Many people across an organization need social intelligence to help them do what they do better. And my post pretty clearly spelled that out. When we look at these issues through the glasses and tunnel vision imposed by virtue of our own area of specialty, it's easy to get sidetracked. Absolutely the PR team delivers great value and is well suited in many instances to part of what social and social intelligence delivers. So is your marketing team. And so is your customer service team and your sales team. That's the point of my entire post - the people who need to use social and social intelligence for their particular roles and responsibilities within an organization are the ones who should "own" social, with regard to their need. But to suggest that PR, across the organization, is and should be responsible for all data and intelligence that comes from social and application thereof throughout the business is, in my opinion, wrong.
@ShellyKramer I appreciate your passion Shelly, but believe, based on my experience, this requires leadership. If everyone is responsible, there's no accountability. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your view.
@Frank_Strong You're still missing my point, Frank. I'm not suggesting, ever, that there's no leadership and that all departments run off and do their own thing on social. That would be idiotic.
@ShellyKramer No Shelly, I think I disagree with you. And disagreement is healthy. I've read your post.
In fact, I read it several times over and thought for a few days before posting this post here. I admire you - and you know this already. I think you are smart, you often have sage advice, but I also think you are wrong in this case.
The disagreement is useful. This is is a worthwhile discussion.
I'm perhaps a unique individual in that I have dual career tracks. On one hand, I've worked for companies in the civilian world and on the other, I've held leadership positions in the military. I just rolled out of an operations job for a battalion with 400 people forward and another 400 in the rear.
As an ops guy, my job is to keep people in sync -- focused on the commander's endstate. You can't do it by saying everyone owns it. I'ts social media sharecropping and it's why companies wind up with upteen social media sites they never new existed. It's a disaster. I know. I've been there. Several times over.
Business, might have democratic elements, there's certainly an element of ethics, but it is not a democracy. Someone has to be accountable. Everyone is not accountable.
Social media is no different. And from my view point, I think PR is well positioned to fulfill this role. It's a central role that champions a cause, keeps people in sync, but that's different than a gatekeeper that prevents access to data. That's not what I'm advocating.
Is it a perfect match every time? No. I say that in the post. Every organization needs to decide for itself.
But the message that everyone owns it, is not a practical path forward IMHO. Of course, I'd encourage any readers of this discussion to review your post and decide for themselves.
Shelly, I am grateful for your comments and conversation. I just have a different perspective.