Inside Your Marketing Department: Who Is the Rightful Owner of Social?

  |  June 16, 2011   |  Comments

Are email folks the most appropriate owners of social media In your organization?

Let's skip the obvious buzzwords and generalities. We know social media needs to be engaging and authentic, list quality is more important than list size and content, offers and relevancy trump all.

Of course, your customers own social, but who is the rightful channel owner within your organization? The likely suspects are generally public relations or the digital team and, more specifically, your email group. While agencies, consultants, "ninjas," and the like are playing an important role in this nascent channel's management and strategic evolution, someone within your company needs to own it, right?

While the public relations side of the house was slow to figure out their place at the table during the first digital boom (although press releases did have an infamous role in the dot com boom), in recent years they have moved quickly to say, social is all about content and public relations is about content, so hey, sounds like a good fit. And good for them.

Digital teams, whether generalists or specialized forces of search, mobile, email, and web, have been much more in the spotlight during the past decade or so. Their budgets and internal importance have likely grown in a significant manner.

While there is no absolute rule for every organization, who do you think should "own" social media within a typical marketing department?

Well, the early evidence and smart money seems to certainly be on digital, with the email program folks the likeliest and most appropriate owners. So why?

  • Email and social are likely the only two, if not most important, permission-driven marketing programs for any company. While reach is important, permission means qualified communications and conversations.
  • Email should be about engagement and revenue. Social should deliver these.
  • Email should be about targeted and measurable messaging. Social should follow in these tracks.
  • The best and most integrated digital programs have email and social as the spark and fire. Therefore, they need to collaborate tightly and serve each other.
  • Email and social programs and related campaigns and conversations don't ever stop, and in order to maximize the quick-moving nature of these mediums, you must have a team that can be nimble, versatile, and detail-oriented. If you are familiar with the life of an email rock star, this will make sense as the social process flow is similar to email and unique when compared to other marketing disciplines.

Some organizations have cutting-edge outreach, advocacy, and PR departments that do more than generate press releases, so they should certainly make their case for playing a key role in their social media program. However, for the day-to-day ownership and management, I think email's gatekeepers have proven to be the rightful heirs to the social thrones. Of course, this all changes when you mismanage it or go to market without a strong strategic plan with real business goals. That is the challenge for anyone remotely leveraging social media.

Let's go back to my opening paragraph and see how these social media essentials match up to email marketing essentials:

  • Social media needs to be engaging and authentic. A must for email.
  • List quality is more important than list size. Very true for email.
  • Content, offers, and relevancy trump all. Any email campaign metrics will validate that this is the secret sauce of email marketing.

What's your take on who should own this dynamic marketing wonder child? Does it matter?


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Simms Jenkins

Simms Jenkins is CEO of BrightWave Marketing, North America's leading email marketing-focused digital agency. The award-winning firm specializes in elevating email marketing and digital messaging programs that drive revenue, cut costs, and build relationships. Jenkins has led BrightWave Marketing in establishing a world-class client list including Affiliated Computer Service (A Xerox Company), Chick-fil-A, Cox Business, Phillips66, Porsche, and Southern Company. The agency was recently ranked among the fastest growing private companies by Inc. Magazine.

Jenkins was awarded the prestigious AMY 2010 Marketer of the Year from the American Marketing Association for being the top agency marketer and the Email Marketer of the Year at the Tech Marketing Awards held by the Technology Association of Georgia. Jenkins is regarded as one of the leading experts in the email marketing industry and is regularly cited by the media as such and called upon by the financial community to provide market insight and consulting.

Jenkins is the author of two definitive and highly regarded books on email marketing; The New Inbox (published in April 2013 by ClickZ/Incisive Media) and The Truth About Email Marketing (published by Pearson's Financial Times Press in 2008). Jenkins is currently the Email Marketing Best Practices Columnist for ClickZ, the largest resource of interactive marketing news and commentary in the world, online or off. His industry articles have been called one of the top 21 information sources for email marketers.

He has been featured in Fortune Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Adweek, Bloomberg TV, Wired Magazine, and scores of other leading publications and media outlets. Jenkins is a regular speaker at major digital industry and general business conferences.

Additionally, Jenkins is the creator of and, the leading authorities on email and social media metrics. Prior to founding BrightWave Marketing, Jenkins headed the CRM group at Cox Interactive Media.

Jenkins serves on the eMarketing Association's Board of Advisors among other civic and professional boards. He is also a mentor at Flashpoint, a Georgia Tech-based startup accelerator program. Jenkins is a graduate of Denison University in Granville, Ohio and resides in Atlanta's Buckhead neighborhood with his wife and three children.

Follow and connect with Simms on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, The BrightWave Blog, and his book websites at and

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