OPINION: Property of … who owns social media?

Kristen Boschma
By Kristen Boschma | 17 December 2012
Kristen Boschma, general manager of Aegis Media's The Social Hatch.

Social media is one of the strongest drivers of marketing and media attention today; and for some marketers, one of the biggest headaches. For every UN World Humanitarian Day success story, there’s a Kony 2012 that ended in disaster.

One of the biggest issues facing professional communicators is dealing with where social media sits and what function it performs.

It is hard to reach internal agreement as to who ‘owns’ social media channels, who is responsible for content and who manages the community. Is it with your creative, media, digital or PR agency? Should it be in-house and if so, in marketing or corporate communications or a social media division?

The truth is, social media sits in every department. It is an ecosystem and all the players inside your organisation need to understand the space.  Consumers don’t think “Oh, that’s from marketing” or “Yes, I can see how corporate comms are trying to establish a thought-leadership program” when they see your company’s tweet or status update. What is visible is your brand’s presence and it should be unified.

Only once brands define exactly what they need to achieve with their social activity can they determine who is leading the social media charge and who makes sure the program works for consumers.

The first step is to identify the burning platform. Why do you need social media? What problem is it going to solve for your brand? The answer to this question is absolutely key to working out how each division in your organisation should use social media.

Next is identifying what type of program you need. Broadly speaking, there are four possibilities.

1. Listening and Feedback
It is vital to monitor what is said about your brand in the social space. Some businesses have entire departments devoted to listening to conversations on social media channels. On a smaller scale, US fashion label Rebecca Minkoff started using Instagram to post photos of design ideas for its bag and shoe lines. The brand takes instant feedback from its customers to create more desirable products; a win/win for both sides.

2. Thought Leadership and Community Building
Do you want to give your brand a credible voice amongst your audience? Essential Baby and Mamamia have done a great job of becoming destinations for parents who want advice, information and to be part of a community. The key to any thought leadership program is developing content that is going to position your brand well but also has resonance with your target audience. You’ll know what is going to resonate by listening first.

3. Sales and Marketing
Business managers want ROI on their investment in social media programs and so lead and revenue generation is important. Coca-Cola has used Facebook to create a global marketplace for its merchandise, selling everything from vintage wall clocks to a cookbook of Coke-inspired recipes. However, it’s critical (particularly in Australia) to establish trust and relevance with your community before using social media for sales and marketing.

The data potential through social is also obviously enormous. Data collection from social channels allows you to understand your consumers in a holistic sense: what they feel, what they’re passionate about, what they’re worried about and who they trust. This is where a specialist agency can really help by turning a mass of data into meaningful insights. 

4. Customer Experience
Communicating with your customers and improving the experience they have with your brand is integral to most social media activity, with good reason. In the face of uncontrollable disaster, social can be a really effective avenue for looking after your customers. A great first step in this program is establishing with your staff the difference between a complaint, comment or query and ensuring you have the right people and processes in place to deal with each interaction.

Knowing what the purpose of social is should help determine if you manage social in-house or which agency should be helping you. Think long-term and make sure that someone within your organisation at least has ownership of the social strategy, even if it’s developed and executed by an agency.

The beauty of social media, for those of us who love it and live it, is the ecosystem. We love the open nature of social media in Australia and welcome the instant, back-and-forth communication.  Just like any ecosystem, social media relies on all the users to contribute positively and respect the rules; don’t let anyone in your organisation pollute the system.

Kristen Boschma
General Manager
The Social Hatch

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