Who Decides Who Should Own Social Media, And What Do They Know?

It’s Social Media Week London, and I’m booked on a panel discussion on Monday, pitting me as ‘the Social Media Purist’ against specialists from PR, SEO, Social Technology and Digital Marketing backgrounds.

All my projects have revolved around providing social media advice and training with the objective of empowering the client to handle their own voice online.

I believe that Social Media done properly, a human voice talking online about what the organisation does, engaging online and using social streams on the company’s web presences, ticks all the boxes.

So what would I recommend as the ‘right’ way to do Social Media?

I’ve seen organisations where the person being asked to make decisions on Social Media will happily profess to having no idea about social media. So why not begin by investing in the management team, helping them develop their online literacy? (Tweets from my current Speak For Yourself online engagement course are on the right – it’s geared toward creating a safe environment, teaching a group in short bursts of face-to face involvement, guiding them towards collaboratively developing a new literacy in the time between the lessons, in which they get to immerse themselves in using the tools).

While the decision-makers are developing their own understanding, invite good social media advisors to develop a silo-busting model of using social media with a focus on your customers. For example, if you’re a travel company, make sure you have a plan B so that operations teams have the skills and access to update your customers in cases of emergencies (otherwise you end up like Eurostar, having your Twitter account churning out special offers while people are stuck in your trains for hours.)

I would go even further and argue that a social media presence for any company develops a following on the basis of this feed potentially being used in emergencies, or when things don’t go as planned; and companies owe it to their customers to make it useful. This is not going to happen if your PR agency handles it, or if it posts updates based on what search words are optimal for getting website hits. However, making it useful is certainly not going to hurt your numbers.

Customers who are putting up with the ‘marketing chit chat’ on the basis of the company ‘getting’ the useful side of social media will feel cheated if the company doesn’t. Invest in an organisational model of using social media that’s geared to not just getting business, but also serving the people who are paying you right now. And for this model, developing in-house capacity, and decision maker literacy is crucial.

In organisations of any size, it’s very likely that, in the long term, you will have a number of social media feeds from various departments, not only documenting their work to the outside, but also help them to work together. I would suggest that the resources used in 1. stopping employees from using social media and 2. using an external agency to speak for your organisation could be better placed in developing that capacity now.

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