We've entered the next phase of social media. The experimenting is over. Social media has transformed our business; how companies communicate will never be the same. And I mean communicate in the broadest sense of the word, including marketing, customer engagement, market engagement for R&D and product development, etc.
From where I sit, many chief communications officers are helping to drive this change and will be at the forefront of this corporate transformation. But I also see many who aren't. The clock is ticking and it's time to do what's required to provide leadership.
The alternative: Marketing will do it for you.
I don't believe any one person or function will or should “own” social media, but there will be a need for corporate leadership. There will be a person or group seen as defining the future, setting strategy, approving/disapproving proposed approaches.
I desperately believe that the DNA of most PR pros is far better suited to drive corporate social media than the DNA of marketers. Why? We grew up understanding every day that our perspective and credibility had to be earned, that we needed to be honest, transparent, and forthright all the time. We specialize in bridge-building and engagement. Most marketers grew up in a one-way model of advertising and promotion.
But marketers are smart. They see which communications channels are effective and which are not. They see where they can have a greater impact going forward. Their smarts, creativity, metric orientation, and customer-centricity are compelling. Now all they have to do is to learn and develop an appreciation for candor, dialogue, and engagement.
It's really not that hard.
My advice: Be sure you have a social media guru on your staff and by your side. If you don't have one now, hire one. Then embed the skill throughout your organization. Develop formal 2010 plans that reflect the new communications reality. Devise metrics that are more closely aligned to business impact than you've ever had before. Drive social media thought-leadership in your company.
It's an exciting time. Embrace it! Or…
Bob Feldman is cofounder and principal of PulsePoint Group, a communications management consulting firm. He can be reached at email@example.com. Feldman's column focuses on management of the corporate communications function.