Who should own Social Media – Communications or Marketing?


What is the impact of digital and social media?

How has digital communications and social media changed your approach to content and marketing?

Remember this early debate when social media first emerged as a B2B marketing channel?  Since appearing on marketing’s radar, the question of who should ‘own’ social media within the business has echoed across small and large enterprises everywhere.  Here is my take – It is the wrong question.

The correct question is this.  How should enterprise marketing structures, strategies and processes adapt to the content demands of social media and new rules for audience engagement, enabled by ubiquitous information and all things digital – the web, social media, search engines, etc?

Traditional marketing structures of most enterprises today are outdated. They evolved to meet traditional marketing media.  Now they must evolve again to address the new rules of inbound and outbound marketing, press and analyst behaviors, customer expectations and most of all, shifting buy cycle trends.  Here’s why.

Let’s explore the traditional B2B model, formed around collateral and interruption-based media of the 20th century.  The typical structure was defined as:

  • Marketing (brand, collateral, advertising, direct mail, promotions) and
  • Communications (PR, Analyst relations, media relations).

The term mar-com took root and the web didn’t exist. 

Customer awareness was delivered in the form of advertising; information was the role of collateral, trade press and particularly sales, touching customers early in the buying cycle. 

Communications handled press and analyst activities by phone, snail mail, PR newswires, and in person. Personal relationships were as important to press and media people as they were to sales. Content was important, dominated by collateral and press releases, perhaps an occasional advertorial.  Deeper content produced separately by product management came in the form of manuals and user guides, training educated sales and supported customer product knowledge, all often developed outside of marketing’s view.

Compare that to the digital world we live in today. The web provides people with access to ubiquitous information in almost any form.  Customers expect it. It’s no longer about finding customers but making sure customers find you. Customers are now controlling the conversation via the web and social media, and sales touches the customer much later in the buying cycle. Why? Because buyers don’t need to rely on a salesperson for information as they once did. In fact most buyers don’t even want to talk to sales until they’ve already researched and made numerous decisions about what solution provider is likely to meet their needs.

So what does this mean for today’s marketing teams?

It is now the customer’s expectation (and marketing’s responsibility) to produce much greater volumes of content.  Content to address a wider audience, in many additional forms and optimized for search to compete with hundreds of thousands of competing information resources. This is the evolution of what is known today as “Content Marketing”.  And, we haven’t even begun yet the discussion of social media and how that can be executed by the business, except by inference as it is directly connected.

Call it the perfect storm. On one hand we have much greater demand for content and information enabled by the web and expected by customers. On the other hand, few marketing organizations have seen a corresponding increase in resources to satisfy the insatiable demand. In fact, the recession has reduced most marketing budgets and resources.

Why is the debate about who should own Social Media the wrong question?  Because without re-evaluating what we consider to be content, how we produce it, manage it, and scale it, enterprise marketing and communications cannot meet the demands social media and other digital channels present to create a successful marketing engagement, and still fulfill the current definitions of their day jobs.

The answer to the original question?  We all must own it. So how does business organize to support it strategically and tactically?

One thought on “Who should own Social Media – Communications or Marketing?

  1. Pingback: What Does the New B2B Marketing Organization Look Like? | the-content-strategist.com

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