Who's In Charge of Social Media?Gini Dietrich, CEO of Arment Dietrich, wrote a post this week, asking where Social belongs in an organization.

The topic came up for her recently when she guest-hosted a Wednesday night #bizforum discussion on Twitter.

One of the questions that came up during the hour-long discussion had to do with where Social Media marketing and communication should reside within an organization.

Some in Gini’s discussion felt that Public Relations should have a leading role.  Many others thought it was Marketing’s role to take the lead.

Here’s what I think, but please let me know your thoughts in the Comments section below.


“It depends” is one of my favorite sayings when I’m talking about marketing, communication, how things should be done within an organization, how an individual should approach his/her job, etc.

For example, when I was at Time Warner, Marketing and Community/Public Relations were two different departments. Marketing most often led the charge, but we worked closely with Public Relations to make sure we were covering our bases, and that, as my recent blog post suggested, our efforts were “coordinated and complementary,” the two words I use to describe integrated marketing. I also met with Customer Service to run our promotions and messages by the people who worked directly with our potential/customers to make sure the messages made sense. When we launched a new service, I helped train the service and technical professionals that made our services work out in the field. Today, those efforts would translate in to helping them send out the appropriate messages via Social Media and every other interaction they had with our customers.

While I was an in-house legal marketer at Baker & Daniels, the Marketing Department included the Public/Community Relations effort, so we definitely would have been the department leading the charge.

Whomever is responsible for helping to define and communicate the brand should be the leader, the coach, the senior strategist, and sometimes the quarterback of the Social Media effort.  They will then help the rest of the organization line up and execute the appropriate plays at the right time…again, in a complementary and coordinated fashion to best accomplish the goals that have been established.

I think this most often exists in the Marketing Department, but it depends on what kind of skills exist in each organization, what changes need to be made to retool, the willingness to change, what kind of leadership and support is given from the C-suite, and more.

Who do you think should lead the charge?  Where should Social Marketing and conversation originate?

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  • This is a GREAT post Nancy! I completely agree that it depends on the skills and culture in each organization. I have found that Social Media can become a part of an organization regardless of position and department, however, unless those in positions of authority support it, it can be difficult to gain momentum and engage. Finding and identifying your champions, creating a focus group always seems to be a great place to start. After things take hold it’s then that I’ve found it falls into a specific area. Would you agree?

    Thanks for sharing all that you do!

  • I’m in charge and I thought marketing and public relations were the same thing……………:)

    It depends; I agree w/ Natalie and it depends on the skills and culture and whether you are doing it internally or you have outsourced it. Also, most definitely a collaborative effort needs to occur to maximize effectiveness.

    Since management has to ‘buy’ into it, I think the discussion or idea needs to originate from the top and then assemble the appropriate parties to accomplish the goals. For some reason I think social marketing and potential impact are going to be around for awhile.

    Back to back posts, huh?

    Good to see you today.

  • Thanks Natalie! Yes, support from those in authority is critical to this process, although there is a bit of skepticism in some corners, making that difficult. I think it is then the Marketer’s responsibility to study, then make the case for the adoption of an integrated marketing program within a firm. If individuals have become involved, and a groundswell exists, that sure can’t hurt, but I think we have to rely on attempting to make the case because this is too important. I love your input…thanks for being [email protected]

  • Hi Bill! You jest, but so many think those two terms are interchangeable. The more we present to all parties of a firm or organization, the more they will understand why this is important….any why marketing itself is important. These are just additional tools to help spread the message. Yes, back-to-back…how ’bout that?! 🙂

  • I actually got skewered on Twitter because I said it depends. A bunch of people ganged up on me, saying I’m better than that and they’re disappointed in that answer. But I stand behind it. As you so eloquently prove through your experience, it truly does depend. There is not a one size fits all. In no way should one department always own social efforts.

  • Thanks for stopping by Gini. You did get skewered a bit. I think there are people who don’t like the idea of something so vital being taken away from their jurisdiction, so I can see why some might feel “skewer-y.” Did those people want you to say it definitely resides with PR? Then you would have been skewered by Marketing folks. It really does depend! Thanks, my friend!

  • Nancy, you’re right “one size doesn’t fit all.” (That’s my way of saying “it depends!”) An older blog post by Jeremiah Owyang cites research that shows the five common formations used by corporations. (link follows). Seems the most popular (at least in 2010) was the hub and spoke formation where strategic decisions are made in corporate in the hub, with some guidance from the business units in the spokes. In a law firm, the hub is the managing partner, management committee or ethics committee. I rarely see marketing REALLY have the power to lead social media in law firms due to the low risk tolerance issues. Marketing may execute but the partnership or individuals that lead the partnership call the shots. Just food for thought…agree?

  • Thanks Jayne. I agree to the extent that management needs to throw their support behind the decision to move forward, to help their marketing team become as educated as possible, and to support the training and strategic marketing planning that all need to go through to fully integrate social in to their own marketing efforts. Communication and marketing can be supported by the partnership, but they are rarely qualified, nor do they have the time to, champion and plan the Social Media strategy. I appreciate you taking the time to stop by!

  • JohnRichardBell

    Nancy clearly answered the question when she said, “Whomever is responsible for helping to define and communicate the brand should be the leader.” I’m a retired CEO fairly new to social media but a big fan of it. What is woefully missing (with the exception of P&G) is brand positioning and brand strategy. Yes, I know this isn’t advertising. But that is no excuse.

  • @JohnRichardBell Hi John…welcome! How nice to have someone with your background contribute to this post. Thank you for your comment about brand positioning and strategy being at the forefront of all of our communication efforts. So many jump haphazardly in to this arena because they are curious and excited, which is okay for a bit, but not for good. Again, thank you so much for stopping by. I look forward to getting to know you.