Who Owns Social – Marketing or Customer Service?

coworkers working together


Social media has forced many companies to make a decision. Accountability for managing a company’s social profile and setting the strategic course for company involvement in the social universe has to fall somewhere…but where?

Who owns social?

As a marketer, my natural instinct is to take control of this new, hip channel. I absolutely must own this technology because it is a supremely powerful promotional channel and from a PR perspective, I must have a choke hold on any messages that leave the walls of this company for fear that somewhere, someone might say something that isn’t “right.”

But like Kirk Lazarus (aka Robert Downey, Jr.) says in Tropic Thunder “Pump your brakes, kid.”

Isn’t that relegating social and all its potential to merely another push marketing channel?

Scott Stratten (@unmarketing), author of the book “Un-Marketing” adds some perspective to this…

“The problem with the term ‘social media’ is that whenever people see the word ‘media’ they automatically think ‘push.’ Media has been classically linked as a way to push your message out through a variety of methods such as television, newspapers, radio and online. However, social media isn’t media at all – it is simply a conversation with two or more people…”

Social is a conversation. But it doesn’t answer the question of ownership. Since it’s a conversation, should customer service own it?

Yes…and no.

In reality, the answer to this question of ownership has been baking in most companies for years if not decades. Ownership in social media should be about leveraging the best aspects of the organization to create an engaging, personalized social experience that carries on a conversation with customers when appropriate and promotes products and services when customers want them. This cross-functionality is expressed in the concept of Relationship Marketing.

Relationship Marketing

The convergence of Marketing and Customer Service that fosters interaction, customer loyalty and long-term engagement.

Relationship (Customer Service) – Marketing (Um…Marketing)

For years, marketing and customer service have been running in parallel. Since, what seems like, the dawn of time, marketing has been promoting products and services through various channels of push marketing while customer service has been the customer-facing “ears” of the organization.

Really, social is the formal convergence of marketing and customer service. Customer expectations have changed as technologies have evolved. Along the way, Marketing engaged customers in a progressively personalized way, evolving from blast, demographic-based marketing to segmented direct marketing to social marketing. Customer Service, likewise, engaged customers on a more personalized level as technology allowed. CRM gave way to Voice of the Customer which evolved into social. While both departments evolved with customer expectations, the convergence of the two to provide a truly engaged customer experience has been rare.

So who should “own” social media?

The answer to this is highly dependent on getting marketing involved in those things they do well and customer service involved in what they do well. A cross-functional team dedicated to the conversation and engagement will yield success in social and set the table for further synergies in other areas that are an extension of the conversation.