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Who should control social media within an organization?

3 min read


SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Social Media — tracks feedback from leading marketers about social media practices and issues.

This week, we asked: Who controls the social media efforts at your organization?

  • Someone in the marketing department: 51.39%
  • Someone in the public relations department: 17.59%
  • No one person controls all the organization’s social media efforts: 13.43%
  • The CEO, owner or sole proprietor: 8.80%
  • Someone else within the organization: 4.63%
  • Someone outside the organization: 2.31%
  • Someone in the IT department: 1.39%
  • Someone in the sales department: 0.46%

It makes sense that a company’s social media presence would have its beginnings in the marketing or public relations departments — after all, those are the most public-facing parts of an organization. But if you look at the adoption path of any other office technology, you’ll find that no tool stays in the hands of a few people for very long. The status quo is unlikely to hold.

Smarter folks than I have argued that social media responsibilities will — at some point — become totally dispersed through out an organization. This is sometimes called the Dandelion Model. I agree that this is a likely outcome in the long run. But while 13% of SmartBrief on Social Media readers say their organization doesn’t have a single point of control for its social media efforts, most of us obviously aren’t there yet.

I suspect that some companies may first see multiple independent social media efforts form within their organization. These will suffer from bad alignment, however, and reinforce the notion that social media needs to be centrally controlled, which could in turn lead to power struggles within an organization, as new players try to exert their influence. I suspect that even those companies will someday adopt more democratic notions about social media, just as they have for other communications tools, but they’ll have to learn some expensive lessons first.

Want to avoid all that? Social media is easier to democratize at organizations with consistent brands, high levels of employee engagement and a culture of shared responsibility for the organization’s well-being. Those are traits that characterize some of the most innovative and successful companies — think Google, Zappos, Valve or even Facebook itself. Perhaps the best way to avoid an internal social media culture clash at you organization is to focus on building a healthy organization culture that can accept a Dandelion Model as inevitability, instead of a radical shift.

Who controls your organization’s social media efforts? Why does your organization handle social media this way? Do you wish it were different?