Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Who owns social media? The BIG debate

Over the past few weeks just about everyone has been talking about this subject so I thought it about time to add my two cents!

Presently, there is no marketing department dominating social media budgets. It seems, in fact, to be relatively spread out across PR, advertising and the new breed digital agencies.

How do you classify social media? Because it can be used in so many different ways, social media fits into many traditional departments. As a result, all three marketing disciplines have a strong claim for ownership rights. This is a loaded question with no clear-cut answer as of yet.

As a PR student it is my duty to argue for the PR corner. However, I do understand that other departments posses vital social media skills that we might not. Just as we posses skills that they may not.

So what exactly is it that puts PR in such a strong position? I believe that social media is a natural extension of PR. Its wide and distributed nature makes it the perfect platform for PR professionals to communicate their message to the masses. Moreover, PR professionals are well versed in communication, engagement and conversation, the very attributes required for a successful social media strategy. Only your PR department truly understand what the appropriate messages are for your company’s followers.

A few weeks ago, PR week published a nice little analogy which demonstrates the strengths of PR in relation to communication over social media:

Imagine you are in a restaurant and a diner on the other side of the room stands up and begins shouting and waving at you. Your most likely reaction is to ignore them.

Now imagine a fellow diner stands up, walks across to your table, sits down and asks for a quick word. In all probability, you are more likely to listen.

Unfortunately, the advertising and digital disciplines also put forward some pretty sturdy arguments. Without the creative and inspiring content that the advertising industry can bring to the table, who is going to sit up and listen? Furthermore, digital agencies command crucial technical expertise and an in depth knowledge of the sector. They have the know-how to use social media to its full potential.

If PR is to boss the social media arena it must learn what it is that these other departments do well and continue to evolve its own offering. Or perhaps it’s about time we accepted that no one department owns social media and stop viewing it like a competition, but instead as a collaborative effort towards a common objective.

Which marketing discipline do you feel is best placed to take the reins of social media? Or do you feel that it must remain an equal and collaborative effort?


daniela said...

I believe it's best to collaborate, but that may be just my opinion. I think digital media agencies can bring the technical support to the creativity of advertising specialists, while PR will manage and administrate how the message will look and be distributed, holding everything in line.
Also, I love the analogy used by PRweek, it perfectly illustrates the need for PR professionals when using social media. You need that person who knows what's going to work and what not. You can send out millions of messages, if they're not properly structured and aimed at the right audience it's all for nothing.


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Tom Westgate
I am 21 and currently in my second year of a Public Relations and Communications degree at Southampton Solent University and it is awesome. I love hanging out with my friends and I enjoy playing football and rugby and I go surfing with my friends every year! I know when I'm older I definitely want to work in a big city, preferably somewhere hot and on the coast! But before I think about getting a job I want to go travelling. I just want to make the most of my life and see the world! In short...it's allll goood!
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