In many ways, the field of social media has hit a bit of an awkward growth spurt. The evolution of social media marketing has been rapid and one of the constant battles is over ownership. Different departments seek ownership of the brand’s social media voice to achieve their goals. Most often these battles occur between the marketing department and the public relations department.
If you think about it, the conflict makes a lot of sense. Social media has the capacity to assist the goals of both departments, so companies leveraging social media can find themselves in an interesting position with having to choose who gets ownership of a tool that multiple departments could benefit from.
The end goals of each department may be similar, but the method each department employs to achieve these goals can conflict when it comes to tools like social media – which means sharing control is often not an option. Let’s look at how the methods of each department impact the social media marketing within your organization.
Dictionary.com defines public relations as:
The actions of a corporation, store, government, individual, etc., in promoting goodwill between itself and the public, the community, employees, customers, etc.
While strategies for building and promoting that goodwill can be relatively complex, many of them depend on providing a unique angle or hook to interest people in the story that the brand is telling. Public relations professionals see social media as another channel they can use to control the brand narrative and convey their specific message to an audience of brand advocates, clients, and leads.
Meanwhile, marketers use the tools at their disposal to reach new audiences, target new customers, and obtain leads. The specific discipline of social media marketing has evolved from this: working to build relationships on social media channels. This marketing strategy has a record of success across industries—essentially, good conversation drives traffic.
The conflict between the two departments comes from the perspective of “ownership” of the brand message. Public relations wants to control the narrative. After all, that is how they achieve the most impact. However, marketing works best on social media when you give a part of the control to your audience, building conversations instead of broadcasting a message.
Essentially, social media can serve either marketing or public relations goals, but there is a strong potential for friction with your target audience if you attempt to use your social media channels to simultaneously achieve both objectives. Whether you use the channels for public relations or marketing, your audience will react best to a consistent approach.
To minimize the impact of these conflicts, it is incredibly important that your social media marketing strategy defines both the goals of engagement on social media channels and the department that will own those channels. By ensuring a clear, company-wide understanding of who leads your social media efforts, you build a foundation for your social media efforts to grow upon.
One avenue is letting your PR department control your employee advocacy program. Employees are a crucial part of your public relations strategy and this can be a way to split the responsibility and allow each department to own a piece of your greater social media strategy.