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Who Should Own Social Media?

Posted on: 28 March '10

No doubt, most marketers today are spending more time and budget on social media. Back in January, I wrote about return on this investment (ROI) in this space (BTW, I am still waiting…)

Today, I wanted to talk about social media from the perspective of “whose job is it anyway?” Most people’s first inclination is probably to answer marketing; but in reality, the correct answer is probably everyone’s. If that is the case, the question becomes which model is most appropriate, and which functions need to work together within the chosen model?

The Models


  • Centralized – In this model, social-media departments operate at a senior level within a company, reporting either to the CMO; or to the CEO in small to medium-size businesses. In a centralized model, the drawback would be if the scope of the person in charge doesn’t consider the potential impact social media can have on functions such as merchandising (for retail), R&D (for software product or tech companies) or recruitment. It is important that the centralized social media owner considers all components within a company’s ecosystem when creating the strategy.


  • Decentralized – In this model, there is no social media head. Instead, employees from all parts of the business that ‘touch’ clients and potential employees–for example, customer service, marketing, community affairs, and public relations–represent the company’s brand and a piece of the social media strategy. The danger here is evident: without standardized policy and guidelines, social media can represent the brand very differently in the market.


  • Hybrid – A combination of the above two models involves a centralized strategy, but decentralized execution. The position and brand’s social media ‘voice’ is owned by a few stakeholders. From there, each function involved in social media incorporates initiatives themselves. This can become a concern if there isn’t clear accountability for the success or failure of the program.

In conclusion, there doesn’t appear to be one answer to my question. In researching the right model for MindTree, there are numerous examples of successful Fortune 1000 companies running their programs in all 3 models. For now at MindTree, we have decided to have the social media head report into me, but work very closely with all facets of our business to ensure the strategy has an impact on demand and supply-side (recruiting) marketing.

Which model does your company employ?

Mindtree Blog Archives

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  • Excellent question! In my view, the very nature of “social media” goes against the centralized model. A silo network does not open up well to the world. “Social Networking” is not the real business – what companies are offering is a lot of convenience and information that wants to be free. Only then will they attract a lot of people to their sites.

  • Amit Gupta

    Interesting article Joseph,

    I think companies should choose hybrid strategy. where it gives little bit of control to the top management and some key stakeholders. If company’s brand is good among employees ( I mean if the employees are happy) it will create lot of impact on recruitment point of view. Heads of different department should start discussions on some key challenges on respective forums to create brand and generate leads. Last but not the least, bringing clients on discussion forums related to some key areas where they really got some good services help a lot developing a brand. it’s better than a client testimonial.

  • In my mind, when the person responsible is a marketing or technical person(rather than a content person), the messaging becomes either a product broadcast or internally focused vehicle rather than an instrument for engagement.


  • We have chosent to go down the hybrid route with our social media plan where there is a central team managing the activites but we have local managers involved in the implmentation. This seems to be working for our blog site

  • I’m not sure the answer is that simple. For most companies it’s about becoming a social organization. That is, you want to take advantage of the passion of those people who want to engage and give them the tools to communicate internally. In smaller companies this is pretty easy, as everyone is on the same page, the complexity increases as the company gets larger.

    The key for a CMO or any marketing head is to turn your attention internally to ensure that everyone understands the key messages and the direction of the organization.

    The fact is, customer service, when interacting on Twitter, becomes part of marketing. The marketing person writing who is keeping a blog will be forced to deal with customer problems. The customers, partners and investors will decide when and where they interact with the organization, and it will be the organization that must adjust.

  • Padmaja Nagarur

    This question, pertinent that it is, needs to be preceded by another question – Why do we need Social Media? The purpose of social media will help determine the owners. While awareness/brand building can be controlled by marketing, direct sales/customer service will have to be owned by other departments too. But the fact remains that social media has to be built into the organization’s culture for it to be successful.

  • Good to hear. Thanks for reading and keep me posted on your blog.

  • Amit:

    I agree with a lot of your points. Our objective in starting a social media program at MindTree was to enable another channel to broadcast our thought leadership to multiple target audiences. To us, it isn’t limited to just bringing in new clients, but also potential employees and other key stakeholders. You are right: through engagement we hope to extend the brand and connect with people we otherwise wouldn’t have.

  • Good to hear from you Linda. I see your point. keep reading and thanks.

  • I can see how you feel that way Warwick. As a marketing professional, I try really hard to avoid using my blogs as platforms for broadcasting MindTree. Rather, I try and use it to engage in conversation with other like-minded professionals. And I hope to learn something from them.

  • What about externally Chuck? I use this forum not to connect internally (although that is welcome as well) but to connect to people like you outside of MindTree.

    Either way, you are right: there is no simple or correct answer. I see examples all the time where any of the 3 models I write about make sense.

  • Abhimanyu

    I think i agree with Amit Gupta. He’s an intelligent observer.

  • Ronak

    We are in the process of going for Social Media Marketing and I personally favour the centralized approach as that would maintain the focus as well as standardize the execution. It cant be left to the whims and fancies of employees or other stakeholders as its the organization’s reputation at stake.