On Thursday last week I posted The HR Department Should Own Social Media which raised a few hackles in the 30+ comments I received and in the Twitter stream that accompanied the post. If you’ve not read the article I suggest that you do so now and read the comments.
So I’d like to clarify my position and see if we can’t advance the thinking a little further. One of my primary goals here is to help companies find a way to quickly and effectively adopt SM across their entire organization because I am convinced the benefits will far outweigh the risks.
First I assume that any company which is considering who should run social media will do more than tie a note around a rock and heave it through someone’s office window. I assume that there will be careful consideration and delegation of responsibilities. I also assume that making a single department responsible for administering policy doesn’t mean they necessarily set the policy. And just because one department is responsible for the overall plan doesn’t remove responsibility from other departments in doing their part to achieve the overall goals.
PRO-IT is well acquainted with the technology. IT most likely has some people involved with SM to some degree already. IT is equipped and familiar with delivering services to the entire company so ubiquity is not an issue.
CON-The challenge is that IT sees SM as a source of problems, a drain on resources and way for employees to waste time while not doing their jobs. IT will have well founded issues with security associated with SM. IT is poorly equipped to handle the “social” part of social media, dealing with employees issues about saying the wrong thing etc. And finally, increased adoption of SM will cause IT’s infrastructure demands to increase requiring larger budgets and more resources in desktop and mobile technology. Because of these negative associations, and because IT has no positive reason to promote the use of SM it will stifle the use of social media throughout the company. What if Customer Service Owned Social Media?
PRO-Many companies are finding that CS is the first area for them to actually use SM in a positive way. @comcastcares, is the most famous of the CS outreach programs which is receiving large credit for improving the company’s image. Detecting dissatisfied customers, especially vociferous ones via SM and addressing their problems is an excellent way improve customer relations. And CS personnel have training dealing with issues of communications and are much more adept at handling the issues which will arise requiring marketing or PR’s involvement.
CON-The challenge with CS is more subtle, it’s one of pigeon holing the function within the company. Senior management will have the ability to say, “We have a social media program administered by our Customer Relations Department where we monitor and interact with customers across all SM platforms.” This will have the tendency to lead the management to allow CS to handle all of the SM needs and leave the overworked marketing and PR divisions to “let it be” as a CS issue. This will stifle rather than encourage the use of social media in the rest of the company. What if Sales Owned Social Media?
PRO-Social Media is a good source for leads especially for B2B businesses where people will often mention a company or product they are interested in. Salespeople are well trained, articulate and certainly equipped to handle any issues that arise requiring further assistance from areas like Marketing and PR.
CON-Sales have very clear goals which many pursue with single minded focus. This can allow issues not directly related to these goals to fall by the wayside. Which could result in long term general PR efforts or CS issues to go unfulfilled. And the Sales Department would likely react in a negative way to other departments entering SM with fear- wanting to avoid anything which may damage the possibility of a sale. This will stifle rather than encourage the use of social media in the rest of the company. What if PR Owned Social Media?
PRO-You have the communications professionals doing the communicating. You will always be on message (not necessarily a PRO see this blog post). Any issues arising from SM will receive attention at the proper levels in the company quickly. PR professionals are more used to dealing with alternative outcomes from their efforts. They pitch a story to a reporter and it will take whatever twists and turns the reporter and their editor choose to go down. Because of this skill they are much more adept at influencing people to think in the direction they wish.
CON-PR is a finely crafted carefully thought out laboriously produced body of work, often requiring legal review. PR may be equipped to handle some of the day to day SM interaction but it will likely bog down when a sensitive area is reached. This “going silent” is commonly seen on corporate blogs in time of crisis. PR departments are tiny in relation to an organization so they are simply not able to handle the volume of the SM communications of any company. And finally, “leave the communicating up to the professionals” is an attitude which would stifle rather than encourage the use social media in the rest of the company.
What if Marketing Owned Social Media?
PRO-Marketing determines the company’s message and goals and how to deliver them. You have the communications professionals doing the communicating. You will always be on message (not necessarily a PRO see this blog post). Any issues arising from SM will receive attention at the proper levels in the company quickly. Marketing can promote events, sales, promotions and other outreach efforts via SM. Marketing can determine client satisfaction and identify product quality issues using SM feedback.
CON-Marketing works often in a world of absolutes, run the commercial on 30 Rock, not How I Met Your Mother. Change the font to 1/2 point smaller on this paragraph not that one. SM is a world of casual relationships and influences where your message will be muddled twisted and confused. This is a challenge for many marketers.
Communications professionals who have never worked in another department may not be aware that, for most managers in the Rest of the Company, having a Marketing or PR issue arise in your department is the proverbial third rail of career advancement. If you’re running an accounting, shipping or a manufacturing department and one of your employees becomes entangled in an issue that involves marketing or public relations it could well cost both you and your employee your job. Therefore, as a non-Marketing/PR/Communications Manager you will do everything in your power to avoid that type of issue stifling the use of social media throughout the rest of the company. What if Human Resources Owned Social Media?
CON-HR is often seen as an impediment, sometimes poorly respected by other departments, and often caught up in legal entanglements causing slow reactions. HR doesn’t set communications policy. They don’t monitor Customer Service. They don’t know sales, or PR, or Marketing.
PRO-Human Resources more than any other department in a company has more to gain by promoting SM across the rest of the company. SM is an excellent recruiting tool, and it’s also an excellent employee monitoring tool. It’s a great way to learn about problems in the workplace between employees or management. It’s also a way to identify problem employees or employees with problems. It’s an easy and convenient way for HR to reach out to employees and learn what they like, want and need. And it opens a communications conduit between employees and HR. These things help to fulfill HR’s basic mission. And HR is skilled in training new employees on the do’s and don’ts of everything from the restrooms, to the telephones, email and the internet. But most importantly, HR has a vested interest in promoting employees to use social media as quickly as possible, no other department has these benefits in widespread adoption of SM across the company.
Give me 1 Good Reason why you feel I’m wrong here… Tanks for reading,