Gini Dietrich

Where Does Social Media Belong?

By: Gini Dietrich | February 6, 2014 | 
84

Where Does Social Media Belong?By Gini Dietrich

Earlier this week, Sam Fiorella wrote a blog post called, “Why Your Social Media Team Should Be PR Professionals.”

Naturally, I clicked over for a read.

I found myself nodding all the way through his blog post.

Yes, PR pros know how to manage crises.

Yes, we are trained to manage reputations.

Yes, we know the right questions to ask to create a calm before the storm.

Yes, we can train pros in other disciplines to manage themselves appropriately online.

Yes, most of the knee jerk reactions that happen in social media are done so because the community management is handled by someone without these skills.

But then I got to the comments.

Danny Brown said, “Disagree. Two words – Justine Sacco.”

And that got me thinking.

Sacco is a communications professional. She knew better. And yet…

Sitting on the Fence

Here I sit, right in the middle of the fence on the topic. So I brought up the topic yesterday while Joe Thornley, Martin Waxman, and I were recording next week’s Inside PR.

Martin’s take is that we are trained in both crisis and reputation so it makes sense to have social media reside with us.

Joe’s take is that there are plenty of skilled and experienced professionals who can handle the customer acquisition, networking, and engagement better than some PR professionals.

Yes. And yes.

As they were debating (and I continued to agree with both sides), I started to think about how we approached social media in Marketing in the Round.

As much as I would love social to belong to PR, I believe it belongs to everyone.

Social Media Belongs to Everyone

The sales team should use it to network with new prospects.

The customer service team should use it to answer questions, immediately respond to issues, and generally build loyalty.

The product team should use it for research and informal focus groups.

The marketing team should use it for customer acquisition.

The PR team should use it for reputation management, brand awareness, and to manage an issue before it becomes a crisis.

The executive team should use it for thought leadership and credibility.

And one person (or a team of people) – who has enough knowledge of each of the disciplines to be dangerous – to coordinate all of it.

That could be a PR pro, the receptionist, a computer programmer, or an engineer.

The Marketing Round

While I agree on a very high level with Sam, I also agree with Danny.

Sure, Sacco is just one person in an industry full of really talented professionals. But, to Danny’s point, it goes to show not everyone is equally equipped to handle an online crisis.

If you want to be the point person (or the middle of the marketing round) and you’re not trained in reputation and crisis, get some professional development to round out your skills.

It can belong to any of us if we’re so inclined.

Image courtesy of Geek Whisperers

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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84 Comments on "Where Does Social Media Belong?"

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belllindsay
2 years 4 months ago
But, Sacco wasn’t ‘handling’ an online crisis. She *was* the online crisis. I think the two are quite different. She is also a human being, who (possibly?) in the heat of her excitement to board a plane and get home to see her family, tweeted something which in her mind (again, possibly) was an attempt at humour, but in fact was horribly offensive. Does that mean she wouldn’t have been highly qualified and capable to handle same if it had been a client of hers who tweeted that out? No, it doesn’t. I don’t know about you, but when I’m… Read more »
EleanorPie
2 years 4 months ago

I think belllindsay’s point (But, Sacco wasn’t ‘handling’ an online crisis. She *was* the online crisis.) is a good one. Really, no matter how you look at that situation, she’s not exactly a good example of social being handled in a PR-minded way.
That said, I’d like to make “social media belongs to everyone” T-shirts. The biggest social successes I’ve had have never been those in which one social media “expert” holes up in a room alone, they’re always the situations in which more people take part.

corinamanea
2 years 4 months ago

belllindsay Hi Lindsay. I loved this “She *was* the online crisis.” It´s sad to see when a PR pro for an absolutely stupid mistake looses a reputation build during a lifetime. Yet, for the rest of us it´s a reminder that, just like  ginidietrich said in a previous post “we are never off the record when speaking with a journalist”. This is also valid in the online world. Be smart about what you say online. On the other hand, it´s also about common sense and respect for the people around you, no matter the country or race.

belllindsay
2 years 4 months ago

corinamanea ginidietrich  Corina, I absolutely agree. We are never truly ‘off the record’, but I don’t think it’s fair to hold Sacco up as the poster child for why PR skills aren’t important to have when dealing with social media. I think, had she made the horrible tweet accidentally *on behalf of a client*, then the comparison would hold. As it stands now, based on a personal tweet during down time, IMHO, it doesn’t.

belllindsay
2 years 4 months ago

EleanorPie Definitely. There’s no excusing what she did. She SHOULD have known better, and I’m betting she DOES know better, which is why it makes it more painful to watch someone like that go down in flames. But, that said, I still doubt she would have made that same mistake on behalf of a client. Of course, we’ll never know now, will me. 😉

ClayMorgan
2 years 4 months ago

The problem with social media is that it involves people  Back at the paper, sales gained tremendous benefit from social, as did the reporters, as did customer service as did distribution and circulation.

Like I said the problem with social is people. We are all capable of having a momentary lapse and tweeting something stupid. That is why I think the person in a social media role, particularly a management role, needs more than anything judgment.

Denis Poitras
Denis Poitras
2 years 4 months ago

Awesome article. True that one person should manage all different aspect of a company on a social network. In case of crisis a resolution group should come in to help that person in charge. It’s a combined effort that makes a company prosper

annelizhannan
2 years 4 months ago
When I first saw the headline in my email, I muttered out loud, it should reside everywhere with everyone… with safeguards. Happy then to see you agree and qualify with the skills needed for each area involved with the oversight of an individual or team to coordinate. That individual or team caveat is my ‘must have’ for success in smooth sailing the often choppy seas of social media. This will help to provide buoyancy when the ship lists from potential human error and hopefully a preventive measure for taking down the entire ship if too much weight is in one… Read more »
ginidietrich
2 years 4 months ago
belllindsay  I think the thing that bothered me most about that whole thing was how she responded. I totally see making a mistake. It’s human. But her non-apology and then apology and then deleting her account…all the stuff that happened afterward was what made me shake my head and think, “She knows better.” That’s neither here nor there…I thought Danny’s point was a good one because I was nodding all the way through Sam’s post and then I read his comment and I thought, “He’s right. Even if you have the right training, you’re not necessarily equipped to handle a… Read more »
ginidietrich
2 years 4 months ago

belllindsay corinamanea I think you’re focusing on that one thing and not the general vibe of the post. PR skills ARE important to have when dealing with social media, particularly the crisis and reputation management ones. But if you can’t handle yourself appropriately personally, who’s to say you can do it professionally?

BillSmith3
BillSmith3
2 years 4 months ago

Great post and I’m looking forward to the next Inside PR Podcast regarding this topic. Put me down as every department has some ownership of social media, of course with proper training and an easy to comprehend policy.

As for Justine Sacco, well she became the “After School Special” of the communications world after that fateful tweet over the holidays. Not everyone is cut out for crisis communications, especially when they are the crisis.

ginidietrich
2 years 4 months ago

EleanorPie belllindsay  The only reason I agreed with Danny’s comment about that is because it made me think, “Huh. You’re right. Sometimes that training doesn’t come into play.” AND just because you’re a PR professional doesn’t mean you’ve had crisis training. There are many, many of our peers who have never had the experience.

ginidietrich
2 years 4 months ago

ClayMorgan  That’s why I love social. It involves people and it’s human. Sure, we all make mistakes. It’s how we handle them that makes up for them. Sometimes the receptionist is the right person to say I’m sorry and sometimes it’s the PR pro. That’s why I think it belongs to everyone.

ginidietrich
2 years 4 months ago

annelizhannan  Are you using boat and sea metaphors because you’ve made it to Cape Cod?

ginidietrich
2 years 4 months ago

BillSmith3  And not everyone has crisis experience. It makes me sad to watch a PR pro go through something like that. And that’s why I stopped and thought about Sam’s post…just because you’re a PR pro doesn’t mean you have that kind of training.

BillSmith3
BillSmith3
2 years 4 months ago

ginidietrich BillSmith3  Agreed, I have been to a couple of professional development events on how to handle a crisis, but that doesn’t make me an expert in that specialty. It takes a special breed to do crisis comms and do it well.

ginidietrich
2 years 4 months ago

BillSmith3 Unfortunately, the only thing that makes you better at it is practice. Lots of practice.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
2 years 4 months ago

contentgroove Thanks, Blake!

SusynEliseDuris
SusynEliseDuris
2 years 4 months ago
Great post Gini. Love this post. Yes, the million dollar question of where should SM belong. I have always put SM with PR because of how public facing it is. Others might consider SM as pull marketing. And while  as Bill notes below that every dept has some ownership of SM – from a content and brand perspective, yes – a dept like PR should be in charge to be point/coordinate to ensure social media policy is being followed, react quickly if a crisis occurs, ensure comms are on brand, etc. Training is key as you point out, so you… Read more »
ginidietrich
2 years 4 months ago

SusynEliseDuris  What’s interesting is I talk more and more with organizations about their social media efforts and it’s always silo’d in a social media department. That makes me crazy.

belllindsay
2 years 4 months ago

ginidietrich EleanorPie Yes, I agree Gini, to your point about crisis training, Very important to note.

SusynEliseDuris
SusynEliseDuris
2 years 4 months ago

ginidietrich Some companies are their own worst enemy at times. Jeez. Re: silos, I’m still finding a lot of sales and mktg organizations still operating in silos. smh

ginidietrich
2 years 4 months ago

SusynEliseDuris Most organizations do. I think it must be a comfort thing.

SusynEliseDuris
SusynEliseDuris
2 years 4 months ago

ginidietrich  When Sales and Mktg don’t work together, everyone suffers. Drives me totally insane that they can’t work together.

contentgroove
contentgroove
2 years 4 months ago

ginidietrich Happy to share! Really enjoyed reading it.

biggreenpen
2 years 4 months ago

SusynEliseDuris ginidietrich This idea is so completely backed up in the book I am reading for review (Age of the Customer by Jim Blasingame) – customers are so much more  knowledgeable and well informed these days, a sales or marketing person in a silo may miss the fact that the customer approached their business through an entirely different department or door …. if everyone isn’t talking / coordinating the sale may be lost to an organization which is more completely in sync.

DwayneAlicie
2 years 4 months ago

Brilliant analysis and I absolutely agree. This is definitely one of our shared passions and something that drew me into communications and marketing in the first place — the way social media inherently breaks down these silos. But then companies build artificial ones to perpetuate their comfortable (antiquated) world view and org chart.
Social should belong to everyone. And in larger organizations it could get incredibly complicated, but I do see companies heading in this direction.
Oh here’s a good one … is the coordinator in an enterprise the CSMO?  Chief Social Media Officer?  : D

EleanorPie
2 years 4 months ago

belllindsay EleanorPie  I agree. I imagine she was probably compartmentalizing her online behavior, which I really think we all do to a greater and lesser degree.

ginidietrich
2 years 4 months ago

DwayneAlicie  I think the companies that set up social media departments are thinking along the right lines, but they end up being silo’d and don’t bring in PR or marketing as they should. What would be awesome to see is a social media department with one person from each discipline – and a CSMO as the executive.

corinamanea
2 years 4 months ago
ginidietrich belllindsay Hi Gini, nope, I am not focusing on that one thing, just made a comment on Lindsay comment 🙂 and had to go for a while. And yes, I agree with you that SM should belong to everyone in the company, but I will emphasize on the fact that PR should be in charge of the overall supervision, especially in big companies. I came from one and I am well aware that PR dep. does not know what marketing or sales do and vice versa. Yes, being a PR pro it doesn´t make you an expert in crisis… Read more »
annelizhannan
2 years 4 months ago

ginidietrich Probably because my brain is frozen from hitting this iceberg of a peninsula and feel I am on a sinking ship.  It is sooo cold here and hasn’t stopped snowing or sleeting since I arrived. I haven’t unpacked and can’t get out of my flannel PJ’s. I had better do an archive check for some of your motivational posts or I may not come out again till May;)

KevinVandever
KevinVandever
2 years 4 months ago

Awesome! As I was reading the first two sections, I was thinking “No, Social belongs to everyone”. Wait, that means I’m thinking like you?

BillSmith3
BillSmith3
2 years 4 months ago

ginidietrich BillSmith3  Oh I know.

ginidietrich
2 years 4 months ago

KevinVandever  The shame! We need to put a stop to this!

ginidietrich
2 years 4 months ago

corinamanea Sorry – I meant “you” in the general sense, not you in particular. I’m still not sold on PR being in charge of overall supervision. How do you feel about a social media department that is made up of one person from each discipline?

jasonkonopinski
2 years 4 months ago

Part of me thinks that social seems like a natural fit for PR or marketing, but then I consider the larger organizational and cultural implications of what social is (and does), I quickly realize I’m being shortsighted. 

I’d love to hear an insider’s look on digital media inside heavily regulated industries.

djenningspr
2 years 4 months ago
Great read and great post.  I truly wish we could get to a point where social belongs to everyone.  The issue as I see it, and one of the reasons it tends to be siloed within organizations, has a lot to do with budget and who owns it based on that.  When you factor in the budget required to acquire the platforms and measurement tools to monitor and measure what you are doing effectively, it tends to be a cost that sadly PR loses out on, and community managers, lead-gen program owners have an easier time justifying. With that said,… Read more »
corinamanea
2 years 4 months ago
ginidietrich I think it´s a great idea. It would work very well for both big and smaller organizations. Maybe it´s not applicable to small companies, meaning the department will have one person in charge of everything. Still, the social media department should be supervised/coordinated by someone with PR skills (though it has a PR rep inside). I say that having in mind my former organization with 5,000 employees and many many departments, where there was (still is) a need of coordination among departments and of someone to take the lead. I was reading earlier Arik Hanson´s post on how Walmart… Read more »
LauraPetrolino
2 years 4 months ago

Here to me is what’s super great about social for today’s businesses: It’s NOT just used for marketing and PR. As you mentioned, it now serves as a platform for numerous operations, customer service, sales, R&D, industry monitoring and discussions,  and even internal communications/employee relations. The way business is done is changing, and an organization that can look at the platforms available and see how they can best suit their individual needs across all levels of the business is way, way ahead. 

Power to the people!

Howie Goldfarb
2 years 4 months ago
Touchy subject. First off Sacco. I just think we all sometimes say something stupid. Just some of us doing on the wrong platforms lasting forever. In fact I just said something dumb to my wife I want to take back. Most professional business people are trained to a degree in acumen and etiquette. So not something unique to PR. Where I see the problem is communications, customer service and sales are not always the same. While Sales will take a hit from a crisis a lot of social data needs to be fed to them. And customer service often resides… Read more »
ginidietrich
2 years 4 months ago

annelizhannan Ha! I’ll bet it’s a bit of a shock, weather-wise.

SusynEliseDuris
SusynEliseDuris
2 years 4 months ago

biggreenpen ginidietrich  A simple concept. I need to write a post about “Death To Silos”.  I think you would love it, Gini!

ginidietrich
2 years 4 months ago

SusynEliseDuris biggreenpen YES, I WOULD!!

SpinSucks
SpinSucks
2 years 4 months ago

howiegoldfarb ginidietrich here or there? anywhere? ^lp

howiegoldfarb
howiegoldfarb
2 years 4 months ago

SpinSucks ginidietrich sctually at the trappfamily lodge is where it is found 8)

JRHalloran
2 years 4 months ago

Lovely points, Gini! It would be ideal for social to solely belong in the hands of PR professionals, but that would hinder everyone else in your company from making strong connections like you said. 
However, that doesn’t mean PR professionals aren’t bad to have on standby when one of those co-workers find themselves in a Twitter battle.

JRHalloran
2 years 4 months ago

By the way, I forgot to mention I love the photo for this post! 
PR Vader:  “No, Social Media… I AM your father!”
Social:  “No! That’s impossible!” 
PR Vader:  “It’s true. Search your retweets and private messages.” 
Social:  “NNNOOOO!!!” 

Sorry! Couldn’t contain the goofiness!  😛

Fewellie
Fewellie
2 years 4 months ago

AllthingsIC ginidietrich I think it depends on who engages with the brand but mostly frequently lies between PR and customer service.

oz2designs
oz2designs
2 years 4 months ago

ginidietrich Well thought out and well shared! It is for everyone.

patrickreyes
patrickreyes
2 years 4 months ago

not much to disagree with this. Everyone needs to take ownership but to your point someone needs to coordinate it all.

Go Lions.

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