Which department in the company should own Social Media?

July 8, 2013 by  
Filed under Media, Media Monologues, SMO, Social Networking

This question was asked in a LinkedIn group for newspaper professionals a while ago.

SOCIAL MEDIA: In your opinion which department should administer your organization’s Social Media properties? Do they really have the knowledge/tools to be successful? What’s your experience?

I’m interested in your thoughts. While the context was newspapers’, there’s no industry bias in the question itself, so if you want to leave your thoughts, why not let us know what industry you’re in as well? Below you can see how I replied to the question.

There were about half a dozen replies in the thread, but I was surprised to see they were mostly in favour of Marketing ‘owning’ Social Media across the organisation to control brand and brand messages. Moreso, the view was generally that Marketing is better equipped than Editorial to create a Social Media Strategy focused on business needs, and to execute that strategy in view of dollar values, KPI measurements and ROI. Clearly these were Marketing people, so naturally they were approaching it from a Marketing perspective.

There were some very good responses from extremely experienced industry people, including those who favoured a mixed approach to responsibility. I would link to the conversation, or detail more of what others said, but it’s a private LinkedIn group, so the content stays there.

I could have written more, and I’ve expanded a little bit in this post, but now you can read the ‘quick’ response I gave. What do you think? Which department in a media organisation should administer the social media properties?

This was my response:

While marketing can definitely help with strategy, sourcing tools for and measuring targets, audience growth through social competitions and promotions of content through something like Facebook Ads, I’m firmly of the belief that the day to day management of social needs to be in the hands of Editorial. And definitely NOT Advertising. Particularly so for social media accounts that carry the name of the publication, and are effectively the public voice of the organisation to readers across social media.

This is for the same reason Editorial takes charge and handles production of the newspaper – it is the stories/content produced by Editorial that drive reader engagement across any platform.

Marketing has a place in the social media mix, definitely, but I’d agree with what was said right at the start about B2B and B2C client bases. Marketing can handle B2B and limited B2C, but it’s Editorial’s responsibility to engage with readers. We have also had, and I have helped develop strategy for, specific Marketing social media accounts around programs at the newspaper. Like business awards or youth awards, these rightly sit with the Marketing department, who manage the content and interactions from those program’s accounts.

I could write more, but I must run. If I had time to go on, I would talk more about providing breaking news and sourcing news and contacts via social media during a breaking news or crisis event. Those are purely news and editorial judgements being made on the fly, with very serious consequences, and not something I would be comfortable having Marketing involved in. Much more could be discussed about that. Final thought, when readers complain, who takes the phone call? Editorial, where ultimately the Editor takes responsibility for the content.

I think in almost every industry other than news media, the natural answer is Marketing. It’s social media marketing, after all. It’s generally marketing who produce the ‘content’ that is customer-facing. In the media, Editorial not only produce the entire body of content that the consumer sees, but they also have to back it up in what can at times be an environment hostile to the message or story being aired publicly. This is a much trickier environment than mere brand marketing.

Does Editorial have the tools or training to manage this environment effectively? Yes and no. Not every Editorial person needs to have the full skill set for managing the brand account, persona, and interaction. Just as Marketing has people with different skills, Editorial needs a group of people – even if it’s not a formal or full time Social Media Team – who have the skills, knowledge and tools to manage social media effectively whether it’s rolling crisis updates or promoting a lifestyle piece on the weekend’s cat show. That’s my shout out to Veronica Corningstone.

Comments

One Response to “Which department in the company should own Social Media?”
  1. Marisa Wikramanayake says:

    Hi Dave,

    I work in the Digital Media Unit now helping to run the social media. We’re the Content team part of the DMU – in other words editorial.

    Marketing is a different department altogether. We ask them to consider digital when coming up with creative and campaign ideas but we run and implement the ideas as far as social media is concerned. :)

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