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As companies are quickly learning, creating a social media strategy without the ability to change major corporate funcitons can be futile.

At the IAB's Social Media Marketplace in New York on Monday, Coca-Cola's director of media and interactive communications in North America made clear that her company is trying to avoid that. As Linda Cronin put it:

"Social media should be owned by the whole organization, not one person or one department."

But that's easier said than done.

Cronin did not give insight into Coke's complete social media strategy, she did expand on her point:

"We have created two Social Media Councils, one for national and one for global. These groups include representatives from media, marketing, legal, PR and other functions across Coca-Cola."

Cronin says that once people are part of a council, they can work together. More than just sharing their work and updating each other on progress, individuals working together across departments can create sounding boards for upcoming ideas and projects. Says Cronin:

"It’s more than the actual council itself — it’s about the connections that are made across disciplines."

It's also about empowering people on such a group to make decisions that could affect all areas of a business. 

But corporate social media is not just about what a company is putting out into the world. It's about how consumers react to it. And for a large brand like Coke, there's no telling how different people in different locales will respond to products and messaging. Cronin says that brands have to rely on customers who believe in them, and trust social media to self-regulate:

"Luckily, our community is passionate. We have a lot of brand advocates that stand up for Coke against negative sentiment."

That said, the wait for strangers to come out of the woodwork to defend your brand could be indefinite. That's why Coke has a backup plan:

"We rely on agency partners to help guide us. Especially when information being disseminated is inaccurate, it’s important to provide real information."

As people are quickly learning, social media marketing may often be cheaper than traditional ad buys, but it is certainly not free. Along those lines, Cronin has advice for small business marketers. She says:

"Don’t enter this space without a strategic plan... [It's] not that expensive to start the conversation, just make sure you have the budget to keep it going."

Image: Coke

Meghan Keane

Published 5 April, 2010 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

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Comments (6)

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It's also about empowering people on such a group to make desicisions that could effect all areas of a business. 

Should be:
It's also about empowering people on such a group to make disciplines that could affect all areas of a business. 

Copy edit all work. Spelling mistakes undermine your authority and are a negative hit on a company's reputation.

over 6 years ago

Mike Stenger

Mike Stenger, MikeStenger.com

Having the whole organization work together on social media, reminds me of Zappos' philosophy and method with customer service as the entire organization. What they've done has worked extremely well and what Coke is doing here seems to be going down that same path of great culture and communication among employees.

over 6 years ago

Meghan Keane

Meghan Keane, US Editor at Econsultancy

Anonymous, I take it you didn't notice the typo in your own comment?

over 6 years ago

Brian D. Shelton

Brian D. Shelton, eCommerce Manager at Gilchrist & Soames

I still see social media marketing as a tricky proposition for large corporations because it often contradicts the traditional beaurocratic structure.

While many (if not most) large corporations know they "need" a social media presence, it is new territory. It's based on two-way communication/conversation. These companies are so used to one-way communication (advertising, brand messaging), that wrapping their minds around the fact that the consumer now drives the conversation is both challenging and potentially terrifying.

Companies can't structure a series of meetings to decide as a group how to respond to their customers; they must react and engage in real-time. Most large companies are not structured to as nimble as the social media require, which is why it is important to have some trailblazers on board to help get eveyone up to speed.

Coke has one key piece in their favor, a director of media and interactive communications who knows the importance of a strategic plan and proper involvement/training of the company as a whole.

over 6 years ago


John MacDaniel

I applaud Coke-Cola for looking to gain input and direction from different arms of the organization. Smart move and too many companies have their departments operating in silos when it comes to Social Media initiatives. I do hope the other functions across Coke-Cola that are referenced for the Social Media Council include the Consumer Affairs/Customer Service department. I continue to see example after example of engagement mishaps as a result of people outside consumer affairs interacting with consumers. Engaging with consumers and engaging effectively with consumers are two different things. Companies invest quite a bit of money and energy into hiring, training and preparing consumer affairs to respond to consumers via phone, email and chat but yet are willing to roll the dice when it concerns responding to consumers via Social. Whether it is potential consumer engagement disasters or perhaps increased engagement volume, either way I believe and hope (as a consumer) that the service side of social eventually will move to the service side of organizations.

over 6 years ago


onsale sunglass

Your assumptions about the local park you describe need some fact-checking. The only publicly owned park in Murphys is Murphys Park. Maybe you are talking about Murphys Park? Our taxes cover some of the costs of this park.

over 6 years ago

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