Who leads the Social Media Programs in the Enterprise: IT or Business?

To preface this post, be very clear that the participants are the owners of the community. I write this in context of who within an organization is spearheading and leading the community business program. This post is really aimed at those in the corporations who are leading the social media program from within and have to wrestle with confused management, doubtful colleagues, and the majority who want to keep status quo.

I’ve served in web teams in both IT and on the Business side, so I find this topic interesting.

IT or Business

Yesterday I had a call with a client who was leading the social media/community charge at his IT related company. Nothing unusual for me, but in this case, he was in IT. Most of the time, when we hear of customer facing community programs or social media programs they are being lead by Marketing. In any case, I’ve got to applaud him for taking the challenge, as for customer facing community programs they usually require a business sponsor.

Business Sponsors help things go smoother

Why is a business sponsor needed for community program today? At least two reasons:

1) A business champion makes it easier: Evangelizing a community program and launching it within an enterprise requires interface with many business units. Marketing, Product Development, Product Support, Communications, PR, and other client groups are often impacted. Having a business champion (that will convince each of these groups) that will address the business objectives, mitigate risks, and define how it’s aligning with the corporate objectives are key.

2) They often control a bucket of money: Most of the time, business units have the budget issued to them from the budget committee, which will fuel the spend for development with either a vendor or with IT. This is not to suggest that IT departments don’t have budget, but when dealing with a customer program like community, the plan will need to gather requirements from the business who understands customers.

The ‘relationship ownership’ plague
Everyone wants to feel protected and safe, and in many corporations, the ‘ownership of relationships’ are present to keep things organized and also to assert some control. PR ‘owns’ the relationship with the influencers like press, media, and analysts, support ‘owns’ the relationship with customers, and sales ‘owns’ the relationship with prospects. So who ‘owns’ the relationship of a community that consists of all of the above constituents?

What really matters
In the end, it doesn’t matter who runs the social media program (IT or a Business unit) what really matters is that the program is customer centric and designed around delivering an experience that lets customers self-support each other, or communicate with the company and other members. Not to forget to mention that the most sophisticated IT departments have become business units, not ‘technology support’.

When these tools normalize, the walls drop

Looking to the future, the argument of ‘community ownership’ will be moot, just as email has normalized as a communication tool present everywhere in the enterprise, the same will be true of the social media tools. just take a look at the youngest graduating class to see how ubiquitous these tools already are.