Who owns social media?

Social media's pretty well established now but the question of who should take ownership for activity is no closer to being answered. PR Week have recently been attempting to answer this, making an argument for a host of different disciplines, while Econsultancy have argued that social media shouldn't be owned by a PR or ad agency. I tend to agree with them. Social media is a multi-faceted beast. It can be used to break stories, promote campaigns and brands, deal with reputation management, drive sales, and nurture and develop an enthusiastic community of fans and followers.

Just looking at this list it's clear that there's a whole host of potential stakeholders all of whom could legitimately lay claim to be the right people to drive this strategy forward.

Marketing will certainly be happy to push the message or the brand but may not be the right people to respond to a crisis or issues that might arrive.

PR, meanwhile, will be perfect for this and would seem to be the most natural fit but, although you have some excellent social PRs, may not be the most naturally inclined to nurture or build a community, while the community person may not necessarily be the right person to completely get across the message on the occasions that are required, or deal with social issues out of the community.

Then there's the analytics, something that those on the media side of things are generally less inclined towards. Then there's always the temptation for some companies to give it to "the web guy" or the most enthusiastic member of the team. But if they're doing this on top of their normal work and don't get the support from the rest of the organisation then this negates any savyness they bring to the table.

I realise this is a somewhat simplistic overview of the whole area - some companies have very evolved social practices and are happy to work in the grey areas - but it still shows the dilemmas and issues ownership of social projects.

It's why, increasingly, I strongly believe that any company, organisation or group that has genuine aspirations of working successfully in a social space should be employing somebody whose brief is solely social media and is comfortable with all these disciplines (and, in fairness, a lot of companies are moving in this direction).

Ideally this person will have some form of media background or knowledge - they'd need to be able to communicate with the PR and marketing sides, and also comfortable writing and commissioning blog posts. They'd also have the time to integrate with a community, appreciate the sensitivities and, if they're really good, use this to feed back and potentially help their employers produce something cool and well-received.

The other aspect of this is the social person being happy to delegate social responsibility elsewhere in the organisation. One of the temptations for social media is to give it all to one person.

But if you're going to have one person overseeing social media then they will need to facilitate and delegate. There will inevitably be co-workers who are better placed to run Twitter feeds or answer questions on this topic, and, most importantly provide guidance.

I've worked in plenty of places and heard tales from elsewhere where social strategy and cool ideas were held up because several different departments wanted to make a land-grab for the social media rights and this internal jostling often ended up slowing the whole process down.

And, as we all know, social media isn't exactly an area that's inclined to hang around.

It's all to easy to have assorted departments squabbling over who should take charge of social media. Instead, treat is as a separate discipline and hopefully you'll see the benefits.