Monday, November 10, 2008

Should Organisations create dedicated Social Media Marketing Departments?

So, this topic is an evolving conversation which I have been having with Jacob Morgan this morning via Twitter. Should organisations have their own dedicated Social Media Departments? My answer; no. Whilst Morgan makes some very convincing arguments in his latest post, my thoughts on the matter differ somewhat from his...

Whilst it is true that the 'Social Media' comprises a number of tools and platforms, I would argue that a cultural perspective is required to achieve success therein; in other words, we need to ensure that the organisation's culture is conducive towards the social media. Remember, the Social Media has gained in popularity as a result of a social revolution, not a technical one. Whilst the resultant demand for connectivity has invariably led to the creation of the Social Media tools addressed above, the new media (or 'Now Media' as suggested in an intresting article which I read yesterday) represents a cultural shift first and foremost. This must be recognised within your entire organisation, not just within one department.

Organisations must recognise that to create a Social Media conducive culture, the entire workforce must be empowered to participate therein; if they so wish. This recommendation may be considered with scepticism by some members of the organisation, yet I see no reason why it should. The organisation's culture should encourage employees to monitor the Social Media, and to conribute accordingly. Simple regulation of the content permissable for exposure would ensure that employee contributions facilitate the depiction of the organisation as a 'human' entity, whilst recognising minimal damage to the brand equity. Such legislation may include the prohibition of derogatory remarks, coarse language, and trade secrets; simple standards by which the employee would be expected to similarly conduct their offline affairs.

Clearly, this can be implemented poorly by an organisation. In my opinion, social platforms should never be forced upon an employee; for example, no employee should be forced to blog if they do not feel so inclined. Forcing an employee to express themselves instead of encouraging them will not work. For those that are apprehensive about actively contributing to the Social Media the organisation should encourage more passively participation; for example, by simply encouraging the workforce to monitor the Social Media during their daily Internet browsing for references to the organisation. Such efforts will achieve signficantly greater reach than through the attempts of a single department.

One of the final points which I would like to make concerns the difficulties organisations face in measuring Social Media ROI. As the core purpose of the social media is to develop a conversation with the customer, it is often difficult to present a concrete ROI. Were a single unit to be held accountable for all Social Media decisions made within the organisation, it would often find itself defending its position with very little evidence to justify its reason for being. Were such a situation to occur, it is possible that the organisation would simply eliminate the department, thereby removing social media from its strategy in its entirety. Such a move would be disastrous for relationships with the customer...

In conclusion, I submit that Social Media requires active participation from all willing employees in the presence of a conducive culture. Whilst the overall responsibility is likely to remain with the marketing department, by actively involving one's workforce through the encouragement of both active and passive participation, the likelihood of successfully establishing an effective conversation with the customer is enhanced.

Please feel free to disagree with the points raised in this article. Remember, there are always multiple angles to every discussion. It is only through examining these various perspectives that we are able to make an informed judgement from which to craft a solution. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts.

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  1. While I can see the sense in having a dedicated social media "team", I'm also with you on the view that it shouldn't be completely segregated.

    I think companies probably feel the "dedicated" approach is needed because this is how business has always worked - dedicated customer service, dedicated marketing, dedicated sales, etc.

    Social media doesn't work this way. While you need to have a certain level of experience in sales, marketing or customer service to work in these areas, there's no such thing as needing "social media experience" for SM users.

    Anyone can blog; anyone can use Twitter; anyone can have a Facebook profile. That's the beauty of social media.

    What IS needed - and a point you mentioned - is a common view as to what's acceptable and what's not when it comes to representing your business online.

    Get that right, and there's no reason why every employee can't offer a view.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Danny.
    I agree entirely; the important aspect is to appropriately convey what is considered an acceptable contribution. Simple limitations, for example relating to courtesy, do not detract from the conversation, but allow one's workforce to engage the customer in transparent conversation. By encouraging equal social media access to the entire workforce, the organisation can ensure that the resultant content remains genuine; remains 'human'. By making this the responsibility of a single department the organisation risks generating content which is perceived to be manufactured. This is unlikely to result in a successful relationship with the customer.

    Thanks again, Danny.