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Marketing wants to own ‘Social Engagement?’ Think again.

by Michael Maoz  |  April 9, 2012  |  7 Comments

Since all of Europe and South America takes a vacation today, I spent an extra 15 minutes reading the economic news. The back of today’s New York Times Business Day section has an advertisement by a great company that offers software to enable Marketing to ‘manage social engagement.’ Think about that for a minute. The company and the product do not matter here – it is a terrific company and as to the product: it is not a part of the point we should explore (they have super products). The point is: isn’t expecting Marketing to own “Social Engagement” in your company a bit like hoping that Emperor Nero would be responsible for guest relations down in the holding pens at the Colosseum? It was not his forte – he had an empire to run. And managing social engagement should not be solely Marketing’s remit.

The AMA defines marketing as, “…the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.’  That is absolutely a full time job and then some. Going from responsibility for the valued offers to responsibility that every aspect of the customer engagement is pulled off in the right way, on the right channel, with the corresponding level of customer satisfaction is a bit like Operation Market Garden in World War Two.  There was a fantastic but overly ambitious attempt to outflank the enemy army, and when it became clear, even before the operation began that it was impossible, a British Lieutenant-General quipped, “I think we may be going a bridge too far.”

An alternative approach to managing social engagement that we are observing amongst our clients is to form and maintain a team drawn from IT, Customer Support/Service, Marketing and Corporate Communications. This is a dream team. No group understands better how to elicit the true customer experience than Customer Service and/or Corporate Communications. And IT is central for a whole range of topics like privacy, compliance, security and scalability of solutions. And Marketing is the brains behind offers. Together, this team is in a great position to move beyond the siloed approach that customer engagement – social or otherwise – belongs to a single department.

Are you seeing it differently? Is marketing the rightful owner of social engagement? Coming from a ‘customer support’ and customer experience background, I could be off base in advocating a cross-function team approach – so share your experiences.

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Category: cio  crm  innovation-and-customer-experience  leadership  social-crm  social-networking  social-software  strategic-planning  

Michael Maoz
VP Distinguished Analyst
13 years at Gartner
26 years IT industry

Michael Maoz is a research vice president and distinguished analyst in Gartner Research. His research focuses on CRM and customer-centric Web strategies. Mr. Maoz is the research leader for both the customer service and support strategies area and customer-centric Web… Read Full Bio


Thoughts on Marketing wants to own ‘Social Engagement?’ Think again.


  1. […] Marketing wants to own ‘Social Engagement?’ Think again. […]

  2. Couldn’t agree more Michael. The creation of interdepartmental teams and the breaking down of silos goes hand-in-hand with idea of creating a social business environment. Many of the Gartner analysts talked about this at the recent 360 event in Orlando. Breaking through organizational walls, making subject matter experts and departmental resources available in real time creates social empowerment of the employee. You can’t get this from an outsourced model.

    Does social belong in Marketing? If employees get to use tools like information acquisition in real time, crowdsourced, contextual intelligence, and dynamic knowledge sharing, I think the definition of marketing will broaden in some organizations to include Customer Support/Service and make it the clear and natural home within the enterprise.

  3. Michael,

    You address a very interesting and heated point in the debate about who in the organization owns social media engagement. To a large degree I understand your thinking in this post. But I don’t agree 100 percent. It’s true that all customer-facing departments within an organization should have a voice within the social channel. My issue is that some department (often communications or marketing) has to “own”” the channel in terms of reporting. In our organization, communications owns the social channel; however, it is really a collaboration between communications, marketing, sales and customer service and support.

    Thanks for posting!

    Pam McGowan

  4. Jeremy Bednarski says:

    Pam, I agree with you. Each of the groups mentioned above play a part in supporting the overall social media goals, but someone has to “own” it. As a marketer, I’m biased towards that being marketing. It takes the whole team to make the company successful, but each department has a part to play. This is no different. Most marketing initiatives has support from other departments, but are still “owned” by marketing.

  5. Social engagement can mean different things to different people. The trap here is that social anything takes time to do well and thoughtfully. Many are fighting the fight of trying to determine the ROI of these efforts. If you diffuse “ownership” the concern is that too many voices in this instance won’t be a “choir” but could end up just being a “loud crowd”. Having it owned by someone ensures consistency of tone and message.

    Net/net – I think Marketing has the best shot of ensuring the social voice is melodic and in tune.

  6. I agree with Jeremy – it will have to come back to a single dept to co-ordinate. Surely we all remember the same debate about ‘who owns the website’ from ten years ago. I was all for the ‘dream team’ approach then, but it just proved too unweildy, and progress only got made fast enough when one dept took ownership and drove through the necessary upgrades. I think the same will happen here. The other lessons from the problem of ‘who owns the website’, was who NOT to leave it with – I.T. amazingly was a front runner, and so were Comms/PR but neither of these have an end to end view of the business process cycle.

  7. […] Marketing wants to own ‘Social Engagement?’ Think again. […]



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