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Who Owns & Controls a Brand’s Social Media?


The dust-up over the f-word being accidentally published on a Chrysler’s Twitter account is one of those “here today, gone tomorrow” non-stories.

In reality this is about as significant as a politician saying something off-color with a microphone fastened to his tie or an anchorman at a national TV news show swearing while on camera.

Who gets to dig the social media hole? Communications or Marketing?

Mistakes happen.  They get corrected.  Apologies are given and accepted.

(The Associated Press actually called the tweet “obscene.”  Really, AP? Obscene? By that logic then every film that has ever used the f-word deserves an X-rating).

As a person who manages several different social media accounts – including multiple Twitter accounts – I can attest to the difficulty of keeping focused.  I, too, have tweeted out on the wrong account.  Thankfully, I rarely use profanity and try to keep my discourse professional and polite.

Even still such mistakes can be embarrassing and a bit awkward.

The media has chosen to focus on the fact that Chrysler outsourced the daily management of its Twitter account to an outside agency.  In this case New Media Strategies.  The media have also raised the question of who should control social media channels inside of brands – marketing or communications?

Let’s tackle the outsourcing issue first.

It’s a red herring.  Almost every single big brand outsources much of their communications and marketing functions – from PR to advertising.  That’s because brands simply don’t have the resources, expertise or reach of communications and advertising agencies.  Besides it makes economic sense to outsource it – its cheaper while being more effective.

No one questions brands using PR and advertising agencies.  So why do they question brands for using professional services for social media?  As long as the oversight is being performed by the brand and standards and processes for content creation, monitoring and engagement are adhered to then it makes all the sense in the world.

The mistake at Chrysler had nothing to do with the fact that the work was outsourced.

Now the second question: Who should control social media channels – marketing or communications.  The answer is simple: both.  Only the challenge is figuring out how they should integrate on social channels.

Communications should handle the day-to-day account management and the everyday engagement.  They should oversee the social media editorial calendar and set the standards.  Communicators are simply better at conversational forms of media than marketers and advertisers.  They are used to the give and take and handling real-time interaction.

Marketing and advertising should be involved in creating and integrating social and digital campaigns, creating dynamic content – especially in visual or interactive mediums, and helping set the overall strategy and brand voice.

But communications and marketing need to work together and play to their strengths.

What do you think of the “obscene” tweet?  Should companies outsource social media?  And what department inside of a brand should control it?

Links:

AdAge story on the Chrysler incident

AP story on incident

New Media Strategies

5 Reasons Why Brand Should Outsource Social Media

Photo by Colin Jackson (via Flickr)

Disclosure: General Motors is a client of Weber Shandwick (where I work) and I perform social/digital media consulting work for GM.

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