Who Owns Your Company’s Social Media Strategy?

Let’s face it, right now social media marketing is likely one of the hottest topics in the marketing arena. Whether its offline or online, almost any department that touches marketing in any way feels that they should be the department that owns the social media efforts within your company. In theory it might seem best to let your marketing department handle this area, but the question is do they really have all the skill sets to handle and implement a successful social media strategy? Likely not.

Understanding the giant world of social media (remember it’s not just Facebook or Twitter) is a tough task. What’s even harder to grasp is how to integrate your social media efforts with your other marketing tactics. Social media marketing doesn’t operate in a vacuum; in order for it to work successfully you need to integrate your social media marketing with all of your marketing channels in play. From e-mail to offline, each channel plays a significant role in whether or not your social media marketing strategy will be successful.

Rather than letting one single department handle your social media marketing efforts, I counter that companies should be pulling in employees with the skill sets from all areas of your company to make up your social media marketing team. This will give you a balanced approach and won’t heavily lean towards marketing messages or over-sympathizing with your engagement. From your optimization, event promotion, analytics, and even customer service and IT departments, someone from each area can help your efforts become more successful than just relying on one department.

Let’s take a deeper look at how different departments can help create a successful social media strategy:

  • Marketing (offline). Your offline marketing department has probably been the stalwart in your company. They’ve been around before the Internet became “the” place to be. They understand the offline world of TV, radio, and print where messages could be pushed, and how to craft those messages to get the attention of your customers and audience. Utilizing them is important because they understand your messaging and how to craft it to appeal to different demographics. Just keep in mind that in social media communities, it’s not about “pushing” a message, it’s about giving value, and if the message isn’t valuable it will be ignored.
  • Public relations (PR). Your public relations team members are the masters of getting media attention. They’ve got the connections that likely no one else has in your company to garner the interviews, the 10 or 20 second media bites, or the quotes from authorities you need to promote your product or service. They know how to do a job well and how to get the interest of the media or your publics. Again, this is a lot of push and a company can be tempted to just push out news release after news release online. Don’t give in to that temptation, but utilize your PR team for your online efforts of promoting what you’re doing in social media communities.
  • Search marketing. Arguably, the online search marketing team is going to be the team most companies look to, to lead up your social media marketing efforts. These employees are uniquely skilled in making your content, information, and marketing efforts show up in the search engine results, whether it’s for organic or paid (PPC). You need your online team to make sure your social media efforts are being found in the communities you are working in, but there are still the engagement, promotion, and messaging pieces that need to be combined to make things successful.
  • Customer service. If anyone understands your customers, it’s your customer service team. They have unique insights into what makes your customers tick and what they care about (good or bad). Employees from this team can handle the element of successful engagement in the communities you choose for your strategy, just make sure that they understand the key messaging that has been crafted by other members of your team.
  • IT. Yes, even IT has a stake in your social media efforts. They need to understand your efforts in a way that will allow for your website or your website applications to continue functioning properly. If your efforts are aimed at creating content that is viral in nature, it’s especially important to bring in employees from your IT team to ensure your website can handle the load if you “strike gold” in your viral efforts.
  • E-mail marketing. E-mail can be social media’s best friend. Working with employees on your e-mail marketing team can be one of the most significant and powerful ways of getting your customers interested in participating in what you are doing in social media. They understand how to grab the attention so the e-mails are opened and engaged with, but they also know how to not “annoy” your customer base with too many “push”-type e-mails.

Before you decide that just one department in your company should be handling your social media efforts, look closely at how each department can help you become much more successful than one group operating in a silo. By combining the knowledge within your company, you make your efforts that much more successful.

Liana is off today. This column was originally published on Oct. 20, 2010 on ClickZ.

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