Social Media is a Co-Op

How many times have you asked this, or heard it asked?

Yes, but who OWNS social media? Is it marketing? PR? Customer service?

My answer? Yes.

You see, we’ve gotten so very matrixed and hierarchical in our approach to accountability and leadership (in everything, not just social media). We’ve told ourselves that something can’t possibly function unless we have one tie to tug, one person or role to point a finger at, one department with which to leave all the heavy lifting or all the glory (while giving ourselves the excuse that, well, that’s in their department).

Tomorrow’s successful and groundbreaking social businesses simply won’t see things that way.

The answers to how social applies inside our companies should never be one dimensional. Because social media isn’t vertical. It isn’t horizontal. It’s a business model that – if deployed well – permeates the very structure and practice of a business. It doesn’t just trickle down a spreadsheet into someone’s budget or list of accomplishments. It’s not a checklist.

But when it comes to management, hierarchies are cleaner. Excluding people by roles or functions is less messy, mostly because it requires less discussion. Parking social media in a singular box means that we somehow can understand and relate to it more familiarly. We can skip the hard work of weaving it throughout our enterprise. For if we label it as PR, we can therefore take the short road to the purpose, ownership, and even the measurements that PR has always implied. Right?

What a terrible waste that is.

The sustainable social organization will embrace the art of team-based innovation and leadership, and the collective accountability that goes along with it. They’ll build social media like a co-op. Driven by a team united voluntarily, toward common goals, and equally invested in the outcomes.

Collaboration is not just a feel-good buzzword. It’s the idea that our business is built more efficiently through shared knowledge, and shared responsibility. That multiple disciplines work together in order to see – from varied angles of expertise – how an organization works and can excel. What it’s challenges are. How to allocate resources, solve problems, innovate. Together.

The customers that we say we are trying to connect with do not care what our job description is or what department we work for. They care that we want to bring them inside the walls and make them a vital part of our business. No one department or discipline alone can accomplish that.

If you’re going to tell me you need to know which budget this fits in or whose strategic plan this falls under, I’m going to tell you all of them. It is your responsibility as a leader in your company to stop staring in the mirror when looking for how to achieve something greater, and start looking down the hallway. Across the aisle. Across the world. Check your ego at the door and realize that transformational ideas rarely have a singular source.

Find a team that cares enough to evaluate how and where social can make an impact. Let enthusiasm, curiosity, and passion be the criteria for participation, not rank and file. Put your plan together as a group, and hold each other accountable for progress. Build a cross-functional budget based on your objectives. Collectively outline your goals and divide and conquer the strategies intertwined areas of responsibility based on roles and expertise. Answer to your successes and failures as a team.

We’ve always wanted to feel like we all had a stake in our business’ success. We’ve all wanted to believe that our job description wasn’t what mattered, but our potential for innovation, cooperation, creativity, and execution on things that mattered. That we were all invested in the process, and that we’d reap the benefits together by watching our business grow.

It’s here. For all of us to do, collectively. The walls between us – internally and externally – have never mattered less. Shouldn’t we, once and for all, grasp the opportunity to show how team-based innovation wins?

image by Jason Riedy

Social Media is a Co-Op

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