It’s a mark of how far businesses still have to go when a 10 second search trawl brings back literally thousands of articles still agonising over which department should take ownership of social media.

After a (highly unscientific) click through the first few pages of Google, I found about 60% of the results ended up saying it was best aligned with a marketing skill set, around 30% pointed out that really it was customer services that knew most about dealing with individual enquiries.

The remaining 10% put forward a more “enlightened” approach by claiming that social media was so fundamental to the future of business that it had to start with the CEO and work down from there.  

I agree with every one of these, the real value that brands add to a community is through content, this is natively a part of marketing, real conversations should always be between real people and our customer services team is great at that.

And yes, the future of all media is social, and having a CEO that gets this is enormously important. What very few of the articles seemed to get is that whilst I agree with every statement above, the customer doesn’t care one bit, at all, in the slightest.

The audience doesn’t look at which department owns a social property, they go there for their own reasons, whether that’s convenience, re-assurance, exclusivity etc. 

The key element when it comes to “ownership” is that people’s reasons for investing time in a brand’s social media presence are defined entirely by the engagement that takes place there.

The owner of a social property has to be the best placed person, or group of people to deliver that experience so, for example in our case the social media newsroom and press-focused Twitter presence is owned by the PR team whereas the Facebook presence (where, due to the legalities involved, we avoid engaging in discussions about customer’s personal accounts), is driven and guided by the marketing and brand teams, but the responses carried out by Digital Support – here they engage conversationally and cover customer issues/service where appropriate.

There’s a clear set of criteria that define when a Facebook post needs elevating and this applies to both the PR and Marketing “owned” properties. If anything, “ownership” should be about being responsible for making sure the customer’s experience is seamless.

From a strategic point of view obviously, this adds a layer of complexity, particularly when it comes to aligning departmental goals but again – goals shouldn’t be about the department, they should be about the customer and improving his or her experience. 

So despite the obvious (and sometimes compelling) arguments for social media ownership within an organisation sitting with one department or the other (or even an individual), there really is only one person who can own social media for any company, and that’s the customer.