A recent article by David Giannetto on the Convince and Convert blog shared four reasons why Marketing should not control a brand’s social media communications. The thrust of Giannetto’s viewpoint was that marketing personnel are not the only employees in an organization capable of interacting with customers and building rapport. In fact, in many instances non-marketing employees might be better suited to be a source of utility to customers given their expertise and ability to help, not just to sell. He cited weaknesses in selling and data analysis as additional reasons marketers may not need to be given the keys to the social media castle.
Marketing is Too Important…
As I read Giannetto’s article, it reminded me of one of my favorite quotes about marketing:
“Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.” – David Packard
This quote is incorporated into my introductory classes when I teach Principles of Marketing- what I call the “what is…” presentation, the logical starting point of explaining the nature of subject matter (in this case- what is marketing?). The point I aim to make by using Packard’s quote is regardless of your job title or position in an organization, consider yourself a marketer. Yes, certain employees are hired to manage and execute the marketing function, but the burden of implementing the marketing concept of meeting needs and wants of customers cannot fall solely on their shoulders. This decades old quote from David Packard was not uttered with social media in mind, but it certainly fits today’s model of enterprise social networking.
If Not Marketing, Then Who?
The democratization of communication made possible through social media makes David Packard’s quote more relevant than ever. Access to customers and a firm’s target audience is no longer limited to the salesforce and mass media communication. Employees throughout an organization from top executives to front-line customer service staff can be part of the brand’s voice by initiating communication (e.g., a blog or LinkedIn post) or responding to audience initiated queries (e.g., a complaint posted to Twitter or question asked on Facebook). More importantly, the employee social media marketers do not have to be marketers at all. Designers, engineers, and other employees who traditionally have not been customer contact personnel now are empowered to do so.
Before You Turn Them Loose
If your business is not tapping the expertise and personalities of employees across functional areas, perhaps it is time to put Mr. Packard’s idea into action. Drawing in personnel from different departments outside of marketing to execute social media presence is good practice because of the breadth of knowledge employees in other departments possess. But, before you send them online to represent your brand, ensure that they are equipped to confidently and consistently represent your brand. Among the issues that should be covered in a company’s social media training are:
- Standards for time frame to respond to audience initiated messages
- Information that is considered proprietary and thus should not be divulged (Transparency is good… to a point)
- Establishing topical or content areas an employee is authorized to speak about (e.g., a public relations staffer is a less effective spokesperson than an engineer when discussing product performance issues)
- Protocol for dealing with complaints or other communication that could put a brand in a negative light.
The Social Imperative
Marketing should not own social media- everyone should be a part owner in it. Yes, an employee or department will have to take the lead in managing social media, and that lead could be the marketing department. However, if social media is marketing driven it should be inclusive of other functional areas. Why? Simply put, marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.