I was having lunch with an old friend who has spent the better part of the last four years pushing the social media rock up the enterprise mountain. She was frustrated. Marketing, after disdaining and ignoring her social media team efforts four years ago; after having then gotten angry and tried to shut down the social media efforts two years ago, now wanted to fold the social media team into the marketing department.
She is not alone. Almost every enterprise has a small band of social media champions. They have almost operated as a skunkworks operation, one who existed from project to project with money they scraped and cajoled from various org chart boxes--PR, marketing, branding corporate communications, vendor agencies.
Their salaries and operational budgets have been historically chump change, funds perhaps from a few ads that got canceled or a PR budget for a canceled product press tour.
But now we are in a time of prolonged budget cuts. Fat marketing budgets have been scraped to the white bone. Now chump change matters. So does control. One fact has emerged and that is that social media does get results that can now be measured and quantified with increasing accuracy. Social media is efficient.
Yet, in almost no cases does a social media department have its own place on the org chart which means it does not have its own budget. It is always a muddy and complex issue determining who the head of a social media team should report to.
Lately, marketing departments, smarting from the pain of having had several legs either amputated or trimmed seems to be trying to take over. After all, they are the message people. More and more marketing is being conducted in social media venues, why not fold it in neatly to the corporate structure.
The answer is simple. Social media is for communications and communications is not the purview of any one department. Marketing, PR, brand managers, communications officers, customer support all need to use social media increasingly to get the information they need, to share ideas and build relationships with customers. HR needs social media to recruit, train and inform employees. In fact most departments need social media.
It seems to me that if you fold social media into marketing, it becomes a marketing tool and support will suffer. Conversely, if you put it into support, marketing will suffer and so on.
It seems to me the time has come to build a new department into the enterprise org chart, one that interacts with various departments just as product managers or IT do, one that has its own budget, operational plan and roadmap into the future.
If any incumbent department takes ownership, the company will lose far more than it gains. More important, so will the customers.