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If Everyone Owns Social Media, No One Owns Social Media

If Everyone Owns Social Media No One Owns Social Media

If everyone owns social media, then no one owns social media.

Ever work on a condominium committee? Everyone is an owner and very little gets done.

Ownership is a strong word, especially for social platforms, 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, the strategy, tactics and the team together.

This question is old, it has its old critics and old champions.  It’s also new, with new research, that attracts viewpoints 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.

As a practice, I view PR as a vital link between multiple functions – problem solvers – that connects the buyer with sales, the customer with customer service, HR with candidates, a brand with the market.  The PR professional of the future has business savvy, technical know-how and a hybrid of skills that add value to an organization.

Clearly, these are the lenses I choose to view the world, but I’d like to believe I’ve proven my point indeed, more often than words, several times over.


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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.

A 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 keywords.”

Sure.  keywords 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 keywords.  The days of unbiased search, of agnostic search are over.  Google is intentionally trying to 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 a 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 cases, 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.

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Photo credit: Pixabay (CC0 1.0)

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