Who Owns Social Media? It Depends

The question has been popping up with increased frequency over the last year: who “owns” social media? Adweek‘s Brian Morrissey talks to a number of agencies in a story today, yet the answer still seems to be: it depends. It depends on the client, their needs, the agency’s capabilities, and a whole lot more.

We’ve asked the question in numerous interviews, and each time received a different answer. We particularly enjoyed FutureWorks Principal Brian Solis’ answer. In a recent interview with PRNewser, he said, “The reality is that every single department which has an outward facing focus is going to have to socialize: PR, marketing, sales, etc. All of these things are going to need assistance, help and direction. And once it starts to proliferate it will look like this – who will own email within a company? No one, but IT was responsible for implementing email.” High level? Yes, but it makes sense.

In Morrissey’s story, he speaks mostly with agencies that have more of an advertising or online marketing background and are branching out into social media engagement and being named social media agency of record for large brands. In his search for a social media help, Ken Stellmacher, director of consumer marketing at eye-care insurance company VSP said, “We found that different suppliers brought different things to the table, but there wasn’t one agency or partner that satisfied all our needs.”

What is clear: brands are more and more interested in “earned” media as it is more effective in social channels than “paid” media such as banner ads. Given that, agencies that have roots in advertising are increasingly going up against PR firms. Is this PR’s game to lose?