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