How does your company approach social media? We've looked at how to respond to bloggers and who does blogger relations, and I'm seeing the need for a coordinating role. Rather than blogger relations, let's call it social media relations, because there's more to social media than blogs, and your company needs to be prepared to engage customers wherever they are. In this post, I'll provide a high-level view—for discussion—of the role of social media relations.
Companies can interact with social media in a variety of ways. I've given some examples in the posts on product reviews, Wikipedia, search engine crisis management, and social networks. You could also look at the marketing experiments in MySpace and Second Life and the Social Media Release. There's a lot of activity, and it touches multiple functional groups and multiple vendors to the company.
I view social media relations (SMR) as an interdisciplinary specialty that spans marketing, technology, and Internet culture—three components of any successful strategy for engaging social media. It's probably an internal function, but where it belongs on the org chart and how big it should be is a question for individual companies to consider. Briefly, SMR is the "go-to" person (or group) for the topic of social media as it affects the company. Here's a summary of the responsibilities of the role:
- Coordinate the development and implementation of social media engagement strategy and policies, including blogging policy, formal blogger relations programs and social media monitoring programs.
- Maintain domain knowledge in social media. Be a resource for others who need to understand new services and their potential impact on the business.
- Maintain awareness of company's activities in social media and contacts for the various activities.
- Be an advocate for the understanding of social media and how they affect the company's marketing and communications activities.
- Engage the company's IT organization to coordinate IT resources and policies with social media strategy.
- Train functional groups (such as marketing, communications, and HR) on the technology and culture of social media as it relates to their roles.
- Coordinate company's tactical response to social media issues.
- Consult with internal groups on appropriate responses to social media issues. Advise on the likely response of online communities to the company's plan.
- Coordinate company response to social media crises; track engagement by appropriate groups (internal and external).
- Serve as the primary contact for external service providers and vendors who support the monitoring of, and engagement with social media.
This year, when most CEOs don't see the need to interact with bloggers and fear social media (if they understand it at all), this is ahead of the curve. While we're still sorting this out among friends, what do you think?
[Thanks to Mark Harris for his help in reviewing and reorganizing the list. With enough of us on the case, we may just get this figured out.]
Update (27 July 2007): Is this your job, or close to it? I'm looking for social media specialists to interview for an upcoming paper on the role and how real companies have approached it. If you're the social media person in your company, I'd like to talk with you, even—especially—if your description is different from the above. Email me at nathan (at) net-savvy (dot) com.