Digital Marketing, Social Media Strategy, PR 20, Social Media Marketing

Who Wins the Struggle for Social Media Control

aberaeron tug of war on flickr photo sharingjpg 200x300 Who Wins the Struggle for Social Media Control(post originally written for MarketingProfs Daily Fix)

How do we know social media is for real? Because the various marketing disciplines are locked in a critically important tug-of-war that will decide who owns it. This fight will be a central component of boardroom discussions, conference keynotes, and merger activity in 2009.

While it’s true that optimal social media requires the cooperation of multiple disciplines, that’s not the way the business of marketing works. When new tactics emerge, the purveyors of the historic methods circle, dodge, and proclaim that their experience best positions them to manufacture this new elixir. It happened with radio. It happened with Web sites. It happened (and is still ongoing) with regard to SEO and email. Social media is the new battleground.

The four combatants each have reasonable claims to social media ownership.

Advertising
Because social media often requires making stuff, and can impact overall brand perception, advertising should be in charge of social media. The rising importance of video within social media also favors advertising types.

Digital
Because social media is (at least for now) an online construct, the Internet marketing agencies should be in the driver’s seat. Plus, social media has major SEO implications in some cases, and most SEO is still handled by digital specialists.

Public Relations
Because social media is ultimately about conversations, and is non-linear, public relations is best equipped to manage social media efforts. Especially so given the demise of traditional journalism, the importance of blogger relations, and the blurring of the lines between customer and reporter.

Client
Because social media is ideally an extension and manifestation of the brand’s operations and culture, and requires near-constant vigilance and engagement, the client is best able to oversee social media. Comcast is a good example of this philosophy.

There is also a surge of social media firms. While there is a place for these specialists, they won’t be the norm. There is too much at stake this time, and advertising is just now recovering from the industry-wide hubris that caused them to largely miss the digital wave, giving rise to hundreds of digital agencies. They won’t repeat that blunder.

The outcome of this struggle hinges on a single factor. Will social media become viewed as a tactical or strategic component? Of course, it will be both in practice, but in 2009 our shared understanding of what social media is and how it works will swell considerably. And within that accepted norm will be placement of social media in the strategic (advertising), or tactical (digital) bucket.

As I’ve written here before, I’m a proponent of social media strategy and elevating the conversation beyond whether Wikipedia or Knol is a better platform. I very much hope the social media “industry” tilts in that direction. If it does, public relations is best able to lead the social media charge. They straddle the line between strategic and tactical currently, they are hungry to take on the social media assignment, and their background in content creation and conversation is well-suited.

No question that public relations has a long way to go before they have social media conquered. At present, way too many clumsy blogger pitches and not enough digital savvy. But I think they can and will get there. In the social media tug-of-war, I’m pulling on the rope of PR.

How about you?

(photo by futureshape)

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  • http://blog.ecairn.com/ laurent

    I see a parallel between what web2.0 is doing to customer communication and what web1.0 did to sales and fulfillment. It opened a new more direct channel. But, in most cases, it didn’t kill, though they had to adapt, the old ones (stores and all the non virtual mechanisms used to sale). At least yet. Who knows in 50 years ;-).
    I assume in your post you talk about agencies (advertising vs digital vs PR…) vs client. I think depending on the situation and the need, it will be the agency and/or the client. Clients have blogs/twitter account/facebook fan page and are already going direct with customers.
    Btw, a related post on this topic (they’re many) http://www.mediapost.com/publications/index.cfm?fa=Articles.showArticle&art_aid=99596

    laurent’s last blog post..Relevant Metrics: Look in Relevant Blogs

  • http://blog.ecairn.com laurent

    I see a parallel between what web2.0 is doing to customer communication and what web1.0 did to sales and fulfillment. It opened a new more direct channel. But, in most cases, it didn’t kill, though they had to adapt, the old ones (stores and all the non virtual mechanisms used to sale). At least yet. Who knows in 50 years ;-).
    I assume in your post you talk about agencies (advertising vs digital vs PR…) vs client. I think depending on the situation and the need, it will be the agency and/or the client. Clients have blogs/twitter account/facebook fan page and are already going direct with customers.
    Btw, a related post on this topic (they’re many) http://www.mediapost.com/publications/index.cfm?fa=Articles.showArticle&art_aid=99596

    laurent’s last blog post..Relevant Metrics: Look in Relevant Blogs

  • seth

    My vote is for the consumer. Hopefully the consumer wins! They ultimately make the decisions that impact brands, products, services, so aren’t they in control when all the dust settles?

    Maybe I’m being naive, or misinterpreting the Cluetrain Manifesto.

  • http://YourWebsite seth

    My vote is for the consumer. Hopefully the consumer wins! They ultimately make the decisions that impact brands, products, services, so aren’t they in control when all the dust settles?

    Maybe I’m being naive, or misinterpreting the Cluetrain Manifesto.

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  • http://dontdrinkthekoolaidblog.com/ Ian

    It comes down, as it always has, to who has the “Big Idea.” Social media is nothing without content and content is (usually) nothing without an idea. I’m lucky enough to work at an agency where the lines are blurred between advertising, pr, and digital (some of which we work with outside partners to create) but we all realize that it starts with an idea. Do clients often come up with the Big Idea? Not often (and before anybody freaks out i said often) – that’s why they pay us. Ultimately, we can continue the fight over who owns what, or we can choose to remain relevant by separating content from vehicle we use to deliver the message. Media will come and go (yes, including “social media” as we know it) but the people who come up with the ideas that fuel the content will always be around to “own” whatever comes next.

  • http://dontdrinkthekoolaidblog.com Ian

    It comes down, as it always has, to who has the “Big Idea.” Social media is nothing without content and content is (usually) nothing without an idea. I’m lucky enough to work at an agency where the lines are blurred between advertising, pr, and digital (some of which we work with outside partners to create) but we all realize that it starts with an idea. Do clients often come up with the Big Idea? Not often (and before anybody freaks out i said often) – that’s why they pay us. Ultimately, we can continue the fight over who owns what, or we can choose to remain relevant by separating content from vehicle we use to deliver the message. Media will come and go (yes, including “social media” as we know it) but the people who come up with the ideas that fuel the content will always be around to “own” whatever comes next.

  • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/ Jason Baer

    @laurent – Great point. In many ways social media is customer service 2.0, not marketing 2.0. Excellent observation.

    @seth – Absolutely. Hopefully, whomever grabs the steering wheel is astute enough to recognize that consumers will tell the brand where it needs to go, not the converse.

    @Ian – I agree that ideas usually win. But I’m finding that many of the signature social media successes aren’t big ideas at all. But rather, small ideas done in a big way. Is Comcast providing customer service via Twitter a big idea? Operationally, perhaps. From a marketing standpoint, no. Is Papa John’s selling pizza from Facebook a big idea? I’d argue it’s an old idea with a new outreach mechanism. Overall, I’m finding too many brands (and practically all consultants) trying too hard to come up with the killer social media idea, when the secret is more about making the customer feel a part of the brand equation – which is best done with a series of small proof points, not a huge, shiny one.

    • http://baileygardiner.com/ Ian

      The two examples that you site prove my point. Comcast telling their customers what their employees just ate for lunch or tweeting ad infinitum about tweeting wouldn’t be a big idea. Finding an economical and immediate way to reach their customers and create a meaningful “we care” dialogue – kind of a big idea. Papa John’s having a Facebook page so that people can become fans and poke each other – not big at all. Papa John’s finding an incredibly relevant and new way to interact with its target audience and offer them something useful to boot – very big idea. All of this content (and by content, I don’t just mean words and pictures) contributes to the overall brand. Now, you and I can are argue over whether these were big ideas or small ideas executed in a big way but one thing’s for certain; it comes down to people and ideas. It doesn’t matter whether they’re from an ad, pr or digital agency – or even from the client themselves – social media’s control will be determined by those who are smart enough to find intriguing ways to use it. And that’s what our clients pay us for.

      • http://baileygardiner.com/ Ian

        Incidentally, spell check is a wonderful thing but it doesn’t always help with grammar… I meant “cite” but typed “site.” Apologies to the English language.

  • http://www.convinceandconvert.com Jason Baer

    @laurent – Great point. In many ways social media is customer service 2.0, not marketing 2.0. Excellent observation.

    @seth – Absolutely. Hopefully, whomever grabs the steering wheel is astute enough to recognize that consumers will tell the brand where it needs to go, not the converse.

    @Ian – I agree that ideas usually win. But I’m finding that many of the signature social media successes aren’t big ideas at all. But rather, small ideas done in a big way. Is Comcast providing customer service via Twitter a big idea? Operationally, perhaps. From a marketing standpoint, no. Is Papa John’s selling pizza from Facebook a big idea? I’d argue it’s an old idea with a new outreach mechanism. Overall, I’m finding too many brands (and practically all consultants) trying too hard to come up with the killer social media idea, when the secret is more about making the customer feel a part of the brand equation – which is best done with a series of small proof points, not a huge, shiny one.

    • http://baileygardiner.com Ian

      The two examples that you site prove my point. Comcast telling their customers what their employees just ate for lunch or tweeting ad infinitum about tweeting wouldn’t be a big idea. Finding an economical and immediate way to reach their customers and create a meaningful “we care” dialogue – kind of a big idea. Papa John’s having a Facebook page so that people can become fans and poke each other – not big at all. Papa John’s finding an incredibly relevant and new way to interact with its target audience and offer them something useful to boot – very big idea. All of this content (and by content, I don’t just mean words and pictures) contributes to the overall brand. Now, you and I can are argue over whether these were big ideas or small ideas executed in a big way but one thing’s for certain; it comes down to people and ideas. It doesn’t matter whether they’re from an ad, pr or digital agency – or even from the client themselves – social media’s control will be determined by those who are smart enough to find intriguing ways to use it. And that’s what our clients pay us for.

      • http://baileygardiner.com Ian

        Incidentally, spell check is a wonderful thing but it doesn’t always help with grammar… I meant “cite” but typed “site.” Apologies to the English language.

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  • http://jonnewman.typepad.com/jons_bridge/ Jon Newman

    Jason,

    As usual you are right on with this one. As a PR practitioner I’m biased but having worked at and with ad agencies, many (not all) of them use associated disciplines as ways to sell..surprise…more advertising.

    We in PR are as you say used to engaging in those conversations. As soon as we become more savvy on the content side, and some of us are making investments in that area, we will be in a great postion to “pull the rope” and hard.

    Jon

  • http://jonnewman.typepad.com/jons_bridge/ Jon Newman

    Jason,

    As usual you are right on with this one. As a PR practitioner I’m biased but having worked at and with ad agencies, many (not all) of them use associated disciplines as ways to sell..surprise…more advertising.

    We in PR are as you say used to engaging in those conversations. As soon as we become more savvy on the content side, and some of us are making investments in that area, we will be in a great postion to “pull the rope” and hard.

    Jon

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  • http://www.prsa.org/ Arthur Yann

    Admittedly, some PR firms do have a long way to go in the social media realm; however, there are a few reasons why, we believe, PR is a logical choice own social media. First, consumers control social media and, unlike advertising, public relations is accustomed to operating in an environment in which others have the control. Public relations is also a content-creation discipline that works seamlessly across print, audio and video platforms. And, for public relations practitioners, digital and social media are just the latest conduits for engaging with consumers, something the industry has experience doing through traditional media for decades. Finally, public relations is capable of integrating all the different marketing disciplines under a focused umbrella strategy.

    I think you’ve picked the right end of the rope to tug on.

    (Arthur Yann is vice president of public relations for the Public Relations Society of America.)

    Arthur Yann’s last blog post..Accreditation Power Play

  • http://www.prsa.org Arthur Yann

    Admittedly, some PR firms do have a long way to go in the social media realm; however, there are a few reasons why, we believe, PR is a logical choice own social media. First, consumers control social media and, unlike advertising, public relations is accustomed to operating in an environment in which others have the control. Public relations is also a content-creation discipline that works seamlessly across print, audio and video platforms. And, for public relations practitioners, digital and social media are just the latest conduits for engaging with consumers, something the industry has experience doing through traditional media for decades. Finally, public relations is capable of integrating all the different marketing disciplines under a focused umbrella strategy.

    I think you’ve picked the right end of the rope to tug on.

    (Arthur Yann is vice president of public relations for the Public Relations Society of America.)

    Arthur Yann’s last blog post..Accreditation Power Play

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  • http://originalcomment.blogspot.com/ John Johansen

    This has been an ongoing debate for some time now. What the disciplines tugging for control of social media need to realize is that if they win, they are going to change.

    To stick with your preference, if public relations gets control of social media as a service it can sell to clients, then it needs to identify itself more closely with the concepts of content creation and non-linear conversation rather than media placement and press releases.

    If any discipline tries to annex social media only for the sake of applying their traditional methods to it, they are going to fail (i.e. many current blogger relations programs).

    I like where Ian is heading — that people who understand and take advantage of the new opportunities afforded by social media are going to be the ones that come out ahead, regardless of their affiliation.

    John Johansen’s last blog post..SXSW, Content, and Monetization

  • http://originalcomment.blogspot.com John Johansen

    This has been an ongoing debate for some time now. What the disciplines tugging for control of social media need to realize is that if they win, they are going to change.

    To stick with your preference, if public relations gets control of social media as a service it can sell to clients, then it needs to identify itself more closely with the concepts of content creation and non-linear conversation rather than media placement and press releases.

    If any discipline tries to annex social media only for the sake of applying their traditional methods to it, they are going to fail (i.e. many current blogger relations programs).

    I like where Ian is heading — that people who understand and take advantage of the new opportunities afforded by social media are going to be the ones that come out ahead, regardless of their affiliation.

    John Johansen’s last blog post..SXSW, Content, and Monetization

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  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com/ KatFrench

    I think that multidisciplinary teams, with people from all those backgrounds, will ultimately form the ideal scenario. Whether that takes shape as a dedicated social media team within an advertising agency, digital shop, PR firm, or internal client department, or some Frankensteinish multi-vendor-client team–I think you need strong understanding in all those disciplines’ strengths for success.

    KatFrench’s last blog post..My Pitch Log Mashup, Vol. 4

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com KatFrench

    I think that multidisciplinary teams, with people from all those backgrounds, will ultimately form the ideal scenario. Whether that takes shape as a dedicated social media team within an advertising agency, digital shop, PR firm, or internal client department, or some Frankensteinish multi-vendor-client team–I think you need strong understanding in all those disciplines’ strengths for success.

    KatFrench’s last blog post..My Pitch Log Mashup, Vol. 4

  • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/ Jason Baer

    @kat – Hi there. Thanks for coming by. I agree that the multi-disciplinary approach is best. PR and SEO are merging. PR and digital are merging. Email and PR and merging. All of it with a helping of social media gravy. There are a few shops (like Doe Anderson, Off Madison Ave, Bailey Gardiner) where PR+Digital+Advertising is truly a 3-legged stool. But too often, it’s a one legged stool with a couple of stumps. And that’s the enemy of true interdisciplinary thinking.

  • http://www.convinceandconvert.com Jason Baer

    @kat – Hi there. Thanks for coming by. I agree that the multi-disciplinary approach is best. PR and SEO are merging. PR and digital are merging. Email and PR and merging. All of it with a helping of social media gravy. There are a few shops (like Doe Anderson, Off Madison Ave, Bailey Gardiner) where PR+Digital+Advertising is truly a 3-legged stool. But too often, it’s a one legged stool with a couple of stumps. And that’s the enemy of true interdisciplinary thinking.

  • http://sarahsoczka.blogspot.com/ Sarah Soczka

    Love your post! I’ve been thinking about this topic for awhile. I’m biased because I work in PR, but I agree that PR is the best suited for social media. We definately beat out advertising!

    Sarah Soczka’s last blog post..Are you a Shaq or a Britney?

  • http://sarahsoczka.blogspot.com/ Sarah Soczka

    Love your post! I’ve been thinking about this topic for awhile. I’m biased because I work in PR, but I agree that PR is the best suited for social media. We definately beat out advertising!

    Sarah Soczka’s last blog post..Are you a Shaq or a Britney?

  • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/ Jason Baer

    @jon – Thank you. I completely concur that PR getting better at creating atomized content for digital consumption is a key milestone in grabbing the social media rope. Excellent observation.

    @Arthur – I’m honored to have you here. Thanks so much. I’ve never really thought about it from PR’s comfort with lack of control, but I believe you are spot on. There could be another post stemming from that concept. I’ve been consulting with a lot of PR firms around what it will take to “own” social media. Such a critical topic to make sure the opportunity doesn’t pass them by.

    @John – Great point. You and Jon should get together. In addition to content creation, another issue is the consistent, day-to-day/minute-to-minute monitoring and reaction necessary to do social media well. That’s a real operational challenge for most agencies, regardless of flavor.

  • http://www.convinceandconvert.com Jason Baer

    @jon – Thank you. I completely concur that PR getting better at creating atomized content for digital consumption is a key milestone in grabbing the social media rope. Excellent observation.

    @Arthur – I’m honored to have you here. Thanks so much. I’ve never really thought about it from PR’s comfort with lack of control, but I believe you are spot on. There could be another post stemming from that concept. I’ve been consulting with a lot of PR firms around what it will take to “own” social media. Such a critical topic to make sure the opportunity doesn’t pass them by.

    @John – Great point. You and Jon should get together. In addition to content creation, another issue is the consistent, day-to-day/minute-to-minute monitoring and reaction necessary to do social media well. That’s a real operational challenge for most agencies, regardless of flavor.

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  • http://unhub.com/patrickboegel Patrick Boegel

    If one arm is expected to move the lever or if the lever is being pulled by four arms in different directions it will be a total failure. Social is a piece of the overall strategy and it is the piece by which the consumers and your costumers tell you whether you are right or wrong, if PR is not talking to creative and design they are potentially missing opportunities and communicating off brand. While a platform like Twitter needs authentic and real communication, it also has to be deliverable not just feel good chat. Need to have all hands on deck, and all hands humble to make it work.

  • http://unhub.com/patrickboegel Patrick Boegel

    If one arm is expected to move the lever or if the lever is being pulled by four arms in different directions it will be a total failure. Social is a piece of the overall strategy and it is the piece by which the consumers and your costumers tell you whether you are right or wrong, if PR is not talking to creative and design they are potentially missing opportunities and communicating off brand. While a platform like Twitter needs authentic and real communication, it also has to be deliverable not just feel good chat. Need to have all hands on deck, and all hands humble to make it work.

  • http://twitter.com/ryanzuk Ryan Zuk

    Nice post Jason. As you noted to me in a recent discussion – and I quoted you in an article… the first department that credibly advises executives regarding social strategy gains a foothold to drive it going forward.

    PR is in an experienced position regarding “conversations” to do this. Keep feeding us these nuggets!

    Ryan Zuk’s last blog post..ryanzuk: RT @jaybaer PR vs Advertising vs Digital vs Client…Who Wins Struggle for Social Media Control? http://is.gd/Ste [nice post]

  • http://twitter.com/ryanzuk Ryan Zuk

    Nice post Jason. As you noted to me in a recent discussion – and I quoted you in an article… the first department that credibly advises executives regarding social strategy gains a foothold to drive it going forward.

    PR is in an experienced position regarding “conversations” to do this. Keep feeding us these nuggets!

    Ryan Zuk’s last blog post..ryanzuk: RT @jaybaer PR vs Advertising vs Digital vs Client…Who Wins Struggle for Social Media Control? http://is.gd/Ste [nice post]

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  • Julie Gutnik Levine

    RT: @SocialMedia411 : http://bit.ly/15SrtH… JIM!

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  • http://twitter.com/janetjoz/status/1459880537 Janet Jozefak

    Who owns soc med will be central component of boardroom, etc discussion in 2009 http://bit.ly/FWCI My guess the “it” dept whatever “it” is

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  • http://twitter.com/jaybaer/status/1477675053 Jay Baer

    @leeodden 7. I’ve written about which type of agency should “own” social. Ad, digital, or PR. http://is.gd/rr9o Your thoughts? #twt20

  • http://twitter.com/leeodden/status/1477688668 Lee Odden

    @jaybaer 7. Who should “own” social? http://is.gd/rr9o I think that can vary, but would tend to say public relations if they “get it” #twt20

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  • http://twitter.com/fuellines/status/1679468494 Ashley Cox
  • http://twitter.com/foxinteractive/status/1709211069 Penney Fox

    Interesting article to determine how we’ll move forward – Who Wins the Struggle for Social Media Control: http://tinyurl.com/dm6ab3

  • http://www.socialnerdia.com/ socialnerdia

    No one can control social media.

    http://bit.ly/mindblasting

  • http://www.socialnerdia.com socialnerdia

    No one can control social media.

    http://bit.ly/mindblasting

  • http://twitter.com/hbrice/status/1729544139 Hal Brice

    RT @tweetmeme Who Wins the Struggle for Social Media Control | Social Media Marketing | Social Media Consulting… http://tinyurl.com/dm6ab3

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  • http://twitter.com/addisonscompass/status/1849292545 Addison’s Compass

    RT @tweetmeme Who Wins the Struggle for Social Media Control | Social Media Marketing | Social Media Consulting… http://tinyurl.com/dm6ab3

  • http://twitter.com/mammadamen/status/1858789499 Mammadamen

    RT @tweetmeme @atleh @Nucleoid @AnnKathrinA Who Wins the Struggle for Social Media Control … http://tinyurl.com/dm6ab3

  • http://twitter.com/frank_strong/status/1860989499 Frank_Strong

    Who Wins the Struggle for Social Media Control http://TwitPWR.com/fuS/

  • http://twitter.com/angelharley/status/2208854473 Angelharley

    RT @tweetmeme Who Wins the Struggle for Social Media Control | Social Media Marketing | Social Media Consulting… http://tinyurl.com/dm6ab3

  • http://twitter.com/jaybaer/status/9242318290 Jay Baer

    @jenninaz This is an old post from my blog about social media control, but I still believe it to be true. http://bit.ly/bajGaP

  • PRWestcoast

    Definitely PR!

  • Véronique Schyns

    Interesting and still relevant topic. I think that Corporate Communications, which houses the PR function and is the owner of reputation management should have the leading role on social media platforms.
    I believe in a holistic approach, with the ultimate challenge of all departments working with social media collaborating, aligning messages and sharing customer experiences for efficiency purpose in order to protect a company or a brand’s reputation. If you like, see my blog (http://veroniqueschyns.com/).

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