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Social Media and the Need for New Business Models

Who owns social media? Is it marketing, customer service, public relations?

Looking at a recent study conducted by the Pivot Conference, the top four departments where social media is currently run are as follows:

1. Marketing
2. Public Relations
3. Sales
4. Customer Service

Perhaps, it's the wrong question to ask however. It's not unlike asking who owns email. But, here's another question and as we think about it, let's broaden our perspective as the answer may not appear immediately.

Who owns the customer relationship?

The short answer is everyone.

If that is the case, then examining how social media is run today is not at all how businesses should think about it tomorrow. A not so long answer to the original question is "any person or department affected by outside activity where public interaction impacts decisions."

Businesses tend to have a single or narrow view of the customer and as we're learning, they're connecting with one another and sharing experiences that transform their roles from prospect to advocate to adversary to influencer and everything in between.

Social media is not about conversations on Twitter and Facebook nor check-ins on Foursquare or Places, or flipped videos on YouTube. It's about using this opportunity to build bridges to a new genre of customers and the people who influence their decisions. Our mission now is to pave paths to future relevance. The reality is that we are as much competing for the future as we are for the moment. And as a result, we are perpetually competing for relevance.

We can blame it on process, hierarchy, ignorance, lack of budget and anything and everything standing in our way. Or, we can own the acts of socializing the company using social media as a banner for customer centricity across the organization. Maybe we could all follow the advice from my dear friend Hugh MacLeod (@GapingVoid) and create our own #Evilplan for change. Then grab a pair of self-sharpening industrial scissors and run through the hallways to begin the long and arduous process of cutting red tape to free people to collaborate internally and externally.

Someone has to do it.

Without you, even though we're operating with the best of intentions in social media, we are still operating from silos. The customer however, does not see silos, they sees the company as one. It's time for an integrated approach to create an adaptive business, a collaborative business, an aspirational business….a business of one.

Browse our slideshow on Hugh MacLeod's book Evil Plan

Reprinted from

Brian Solis is the author of Engage and is one of most provocative thought leaders and published authors in new media. A digital analyst, sociologist, and futurist, Solis's research and ideas have influenced the effects of emerging media on the convergence of marketing, communications, and publishing. Follow him on Twitter @BrianSolis, YouTube, or at


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  • chrisgomedia

    You are right on target Brian!  I think everyone gets so caught up in the "noise" around the "social" space and truly forgets the tried and tested methodology behind Marketing 101.  It is about an overall strategy and seeing how sites like Facebook, Google+, etc can truly expand your dialogue with your target market.  I'm definitely going to pass this one onto my clients!

  • Brian Bennett

    Great article! It is true that we need to integrate all forms of marketing in order to make just one of them, in this case social media, work. I think most businesses have only scratched the surface with all that they can offer through social media. Thanks for sharing.

  • Shara

    Times have changed and they are changing more and more everyday. Sharing and passing advise has gotten so much easier and faster thanks to all the internet has to offer. You have to hit the ground running ( with your scissors) or you will be left behind! Great article !