If you can’t answer the question that is the title of this post, then you have a problem. Companies have had decades to form very nice little fences around their various departments of marketing, PR, and the like. Even e-commerce (as a department) has had over a decade of time in some companies to establish itself and its boundaries.

Like all social organizations, companies are full of members (departments) that take great care in marking their territory and making sure everyone knows what is their (and sometimes more importantly, not their) responsibility.

  • PR departments handle the PR agency
  • Marketing departments handle the Ad Agency
  • E-commerce departments handle SEO/SEM

A few years ago, it was (relatively) nice and peaceful in the jungle. Then, along came this disruptive thing called social media. Social media didn’t neatly fall into anyone’s preconceived buckets, and whats more, no one had any idea whose responsibility it was to figure out if these new tools could be used for marketing.

I know firsthand that some very large companies grabbed the youngest person in their marketing department and said, “Get us on Facebook.” Think that is a tenable position in the ever-increasing field of the social web?

Now that social media marketing has settled in a little bit, a lot of the stories are coming to the surface about how social media was (and in many case still is) handled within companies. I have seen two distinct approaches:

  1. New thing = scary: This approach has been the more common among larger companies. No one wants to even figure out what social media is, much less be burdened with responsibility to figure out how to make it work for marketing. Responsibility gets tossed around like a hand grenade. A few people do one thing over here, then some other people do something else over there. There is no plan, cohesion or vision of any kind. Then the company whines about how social media marketing is a bunch of fluff because they tried it and it failed.
  2. Ooooooo shiny….It’s mine: In some companies, the exact opposite is true. Every department fights over who gets to “claim” social media. Everyone wants to this powerful new tool to be theirs so they can take credit for it when it works. Since no department will hand it over, a few people do one thing over here, then some other people do something else over there. There is no plan, cohesion or vision of any kind. Then the company whines about how social media marketing is a bunch of fluff because they tried it and it failed.

Did you notice that the ends of both situations were EXACTLY the same?

The fact of the matter is this. Social Media Marketing is an increasingly important component of any marketing strategy, and, just like all your other marketing elements, it needs to have a vision and strategy behind it for it to work.

Someone in your company needs to be responsible, and more likely than not, you need to hire an agency to develop the strategy that’s right for you and execute on that strategy based on trackable goals.

Without that, how can you expect to succeed?

Written by Matt Peters
Matt is the Co-Founder and CEO of Pandemic Labs, and enjoys thinking about, writing about, and talking about social media marketing whenever someone will let him.