The bigger implications of asking, 'Who owns social media?'


Look around and you’ll see a lot of online conversations asking, “Who owns social media?” One of my favorite daily news sources, Advertising Age, has hit this topic twice in the past few months. First, a solid piece by Pete Blackshaw last month where he talks about social media “softening” the silos that exist within marketing and across other groups. Also, another article by Chris Perry (almost 1 year ago) positioned the need for “talent, experience and relevant ideas.”

I wanted to weigh in on the debate with a slightly different angle. I do believe that everyone owns social media! I really do! However, we need to be practical about what this means to an organization ...

Everyone in all parts of the organization should be listening and engaging in conversations that can help them meet business goals. In many organizations, everyone is. Or at least, they’re starting to.

The "everyone" answer starts to explain why social media is so difficult, though, because it leads to bigger questions that are more important. Here are a few that I’ve been pondering:

  • Who owns the social media budget?
  • Who owns the social media data?
  • Who owns the social media relationships?

Let’s break each of these down further. The budget
Most applications in the market for social media monitoring and analytics are targeted to specific departmental needs: Brand marketing, Public Relations, Market Research or Customer Care, for example. However, an enterprise social media measurement application is designed to truly provide analysis for all departments that touch the consumer -- and more. When that’s the case, who typically funds the effort? Who manages the project? And what about your digital agencies, PR measurement firms and market research agencies? Where do they fit in?

The data
Typically, when SAS starts a project, the first step is contacting the Information Technology (IT) department to find out how to get the data. With social media analytics offerings, that step is compressed since most of the requisite data is publicly available and the systems for collecting it are part of the offering. Given that true enterprise social media analysis involves other data sources like customer feedback data, however, organizations still must address data privacy and security issues and, as such, may have to include the CIO and their organization.

The relationships
On the surface, things stay the same in the social media sphere: Customer Care maintains the relationships with the customers, Public or Media Relations maintain relationships with journalists, Brand marketers communicate to consumers, etc. But the lines are beginning to blur in these and other areas. What about bloggers, reviewers, consultants, and other domain experts? For organizations that have separate departments for partners, press and other influencer relationships, increased corporation will be needed.

One answer
Organizations that are serious about social media are already putting together counsels, boards and task forces with representation from multiple departments. The early adopters we’re seeing so far in this space are bringing IT together with Brand/Media Teams, Public Relations, Digital Marketing and Market Research – all to one table. And let’s not forget how critical it is to involve agencies as well! This is exciting for SAS, because we are being asked to play the role of facilitator. Since we know how to handle both unstructured and structured data, and how to apply it to complex marketing problems, we are able to present the benefits of implementing a true marketing analytics framework across all silos in your organization, and – so far – it looks like the benefits of this message are being heard when it comes to social media.

It’s not going to be easy. There are still unanswered questions for most organizations, and everyone is concerned about the issue of scale. In many organizations, there are still just a small group of people in your organization that kind of “get it.” You have yet to institutionalize social media. But if you plan to, and you’re committed to overcoming all of the change management hurdles involved, you will need to go the enterprise route. Plan to work cross-departmentally and research solutions that can bring benefit to the business as a whole – not just one silo within the business.

Given that Chris Perry is a PR agency leader, he is very focused on the talent and idea side of social media. I actually believe that we are moving beyond that now in 2010. What we really need now is a process to channel the talent and ideas. Why? So that impact on the business can be measured in a repeatable, scalable, continuous fashion. That is the promise of enterprise social media!

PLEASE weigh in with your thoughts. How are you addressing the budget, data and relationship overlaps in your organizations? What processes are working for you to move social media talent and ideas deeper into the company? And how do you hope to measure your efforts?


About Author

Mark Chaves

Director of Media Intelligence Applications

Mark Chaves is Director of Media Intelligence applications within SAS’ global Marketing & Customer Intelligence practice. He is focused on examining the impact of marketing on customer experiences across both traditional & digital media. More specifically, Mark is applying his 20+ years of product management and marketing experience to guide product strategy for SAS’ social media and mobile marketing solutions. He loves working with SAS’ stable of Fortune 500 customers across Retail, Financial Services, Manufacturing, Hospitality, Media, and Health & Life Sciences industries. A graduate of Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, Mark is active within industry associations including the Association of National Advertisers (ANA).


  1. Right now all of social media is managed in the Marketing Dept. In order to bring this deeper in the organization, I believe it must begin at the top. So we are training all members of the leadership team to better understand how social media works and how to get involved, at least from a listening perspective.

  2. Andrea Kropp on

    Social media sites open up a world of possibilities in the area of text mining. While the company must be willing to take the good with the bad on an 'all access' fan page or discussion forum, the resulting intelligence about what their target market values can open new revenue streams and illuminate line extensions in existing products. Would love to see a case study on solid text mining of a public discussion forum.

  3. skinny jeans on

    I think Social Media is one of the finest network through which you can grow your business to the top level. Through this you can share your products to other organizations and also improve your online publicity.

  4. Carmen Bennett on

    It depends on the organization, In our case since we here some virtual assistant they are the ones who handles all the social medias.

  5. Carmen DelRay on

    Some people just don't understand or appreciate how powerful social media is. Maximize it, use it features, earn more and get more customers through it.

  6. Walter Adamson on

    At the Social Media Academy we developed The Comstar Principle as a methodology for corporate management of social media.
    At its core, the ComStar Model has one key principle, and it is this:
    Develop a social media service team (SMST) that supports all departments in the organization The SMST members do not necessarily tweet, blog, comment themselves instead empowers others to do so. Similar to IT team, finance support or HR that services an entire company, the SMST functions the same way.
    I posted some more about this, in the context of a debate about Cisco's approach "Are you just social media overhead, asks Cisco Non-believer"

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