Here’s an informal strategic thinking chart about who on purpose, by accident, or by default winds up creating social media content in an organization. It’s an obvious over-simplification, but I sketched it out based on a variety of conversations with people responsible in large organizations for fighting internal struggles related to implementing social media content strategy.

While the upper right is ideal – since the content will be the richest and most integrated because people knowledgeable about the brand are creating social media content – organizations can wind up in any other quadrant as well. Agencies can work in producing contentinterns aren’t great choicesLawyers – who don’t so much directly create content as create it by default through saying “yes” or “no” to what can be shared – are an even worse option.

If you’re at someplace large enough to struggle with questions about who will be creating social media content in your organization, does this chart reflect the discussions and trade-offs you’re considering? What’s working to make these discussions in successful in moving toward brand experts creating your organization’s social media content? – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us atbrainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can develop an integrated social media strategy for your brand.


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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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19 Responses to “Who Is Creating Social Media Content in Your Organization?”

  1. At least someone is creating social media in this scenario. I went to a Social Media Regulation and Compliance conference a couple of weeks ago. If you are in the Pharma industry you better be ready to invest in the infrastructure to allow the Lawyers to say yes even once.

    • Anonymous says:

      Clearly Mason, in the pharma industry, you’re laboring under the most stringent regulations relative to social media. It’s not that legal shouldn’t be a part of the process. It’s incumbent on the brand side, though, to be pushing the envelope that legal would initially see as acceptable.

  2. I feel uncomfortable with the conclusion that the sweet spot for creating social media is brand experts. Brand experts, CRM, etc all start from an ownership of the customer. Brand experts talk a lot to themselves. I am getting more inspired these days by the concept of VRM by @dsearls where a free customer is more valuable than a captive customer; captive of the vendor and captive of the vendor’s brand experts. I rather believe that the main source of Social media should be people in your organization who have reached mastery-level on a specific topic and are genuinely sharing expertise to create a knowledge flow vs a knowledge push by brand experts.

    • Anonymous says:

      Peter – Thanks for jumping over from Twitter to share your thoughts about the breadth of social media content creation. @TheoLynn:twitter raised a similar question over on Twitter about Dell using a whole organization approach. 

      I’d agree with both of you, and in my use of the term “brand experts,” I would include the clarifications you both suggest. When I use the term “brand experts,” I’m not restricting that to those involved in a classic brand management group inside a company. To me, the term brand experts was used to suggest a level of knowledge and integration to the brand’s values, capabilities, benefits, and promise. It’s someone who could also be characterized as a fan, cheerleader, ambassador, etc. for a brand. To me, that could be a Southwest Airlines baggage handler who is immersed in the brand, living and breathing it, even though he’s not sitting in the corporate office. It could be a customer service rep at Dell who’s talking to customers all the time. I didn’t mean to imply “brand expert” as a title, but as a mindset and a level of understanding about the brand.

      Thanks to both you and @TheoLynn:disqus for raising the question and providing a chance to clarify a point that wasn’t adequately explained in the post!


  3. Anonymous says:

    Here’s a post from Kevin Foster making the point it’s all about conversation (which is why so many businesses struggle with social media) and that customers are the brand experts. Check out Kevin’s view: http://kevinfostermedia.wordpress.com/2011/07/03/social-media-does-not-work-for-business/

  4. Thanks for these clarifications all! These discussions connect the dots to outline my scenario.  We have found in our company that a brand expert’s posts (closer to the benefits/promise & cheerleader characteristics) have received double the response and click-through’s than other categories.
    I’ve worked in agencies for 15 years and can see although agencies have
    the expertise and talent, the passion of a brand expert works out
    optimally. However, crossing into the other quadrants in your sketch certainly helps gain the critical mass of posts needed to maintain our program.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks Stacey for providing background on what you’re seeing in terms of results based on who’s creating content. As you note, there’s a role for everybody shown in the chart, it’s just a matter of plugging them in where they can have the most impact. Interns are likely better suited to listening than content creation. Agencies could be listeners and also extending the content creation resources of the brand, but not without STRONG integration back into the client organization. Lawyers . . . well, I love to get them into the heart of thinking through the content and sharing strategy – but they seem reluctant to actively participate.

  5. Anonymous says:

    @ChrisBrogan:twitter shared this post over on Google+ which led to a great conversation about where lawyers and interns, especially, should fit in the chart. Here are those comments:

    Lennon Patton – What
    about the consumers and front line customer service employees? They are
    creating most of the “content” or “chatter” about a brand or service.
    At least this is true in my industry, restaurants.
    7:52 PM
    Mike Brown – Some
    similar comments/questions prompted comments on the post to clarify the
    phrase “brand experts,” Lennon. It’s not intended as a job/department
    title, as people invested in the brand – which could obviously extend to
    a broad employee group and consumers.BTW – Thanks for the shout out Chris!9:24 PM (edited 9:32 PM)  –  Edit
    Robin Greenbaum – Why Lawyers on the right as opposed to Executives?? Shouldn’t Execs be the opposite of interns?9:30 PM
    Mike Brown – I
    was purposely trying to keep it to one group in each quadrant. From
    having conversations with too many clients where lawyers want to sit on
    the sidelines and say yes/no to content, but don’t want to participate
    in figuring out workable ways to share more, I placed them in the lower
    right. Based on the specific executive, they could show up in the upper
    right or lower right, it would seem.9:37 PM  –  Edit
    Robin Greenbaum – Lawyers are about as integrated into an organization sometimes as interns.9:41 PM
    Mike Brown – Could
    be. But even if the integration isn’t a result of understanding,
    integration can come from the ability to stop things from happening
    based on the legal department’s perspective. If the legal department can
    halt a social media effort based on a couple of audience comments (as
    in the instance of a client where we specifically tried to find entry
    points for its social media activity), that’s pretty integrated.It’s great to be able to carry out this discussion with you in more than 140 char, Robin! (Sorry Twitter . . .)9:50 PM  –  Edit
    Robin Greenbaum – ok
    but why are interns the alternate of attorneys? interns and brand
    experts seem to be the two internal of the groups as I’d think of them
    so why they should be on the same vertical or horizontal?! Agencies and
    attorneys seem third party to the corporate culture to me..9:55 PM
    Mike Brown – I’m
    coming from a world where there was a Chief Legal Officer on the senior
    management team and the lawyers we worked with day to day were all
    inside the company. In fact, we labored long and hard to get a dedicated
    lawyer assigned to marketing so we could get active participation. I
    put interns as less integrated because if they’re really showing up for
    a 3 month gig, they’re only getting a very limited dip into the
    corporate culture.10:03 PM  –  Edit
    Robin Greenbaum – In
    my old company there are lawyers setting policy but they are kind of
    outsiders even though they work there. They might as well be
    consultants.10:06 PM
    Mike Brown – Ok,
    so it’s a different in background and where lawyers fit in. As I put in
    the original post, this is an overly-simplified starting point, so all
    the variations you suggest are legitimate opportunities to modify or add
    detail to it.10:11 PM  –  Edit
    Robin Greenbaum – It made me think. Which is all I can ask :)10:12 PM
    Mike Brown – If you’d like to take a shot at how you’d sketch it out, I’d love to run that as a follow-up Brainzooming post, Robin. It
    would be great to pull this discussion in as well. Probably not a
    Wordpress plug-in to do that yet, so I may do the old cut and paste into
    the comments! I really appreciate your perspectives on this.10:14 PM  –  Edit

  6. Let me throw my oar in to the waters here: Perhaps above and beyond the obvious impact Social Media is having, in terms of offering new opportunities for (a) brand evangelists to introduce and moderate their platforms in existing or new constituencies, for (b) product and solution marketing teams to try and launch “campaigns” via new channels, for (c) corporate representatives – be they CRM, legal, or otherwise – to try and cautiously bring their brand and offering connection closer to the end-user, in response to an increasing demand by consumers and clients to participate in the valuation of offerings, further up the value chain….above and beyond these and other immediately evident opportunities, benefits, or enticements presented across the still primordial social engagement landscape, there is growing one even larger opportunity that has been tangentially addressed here, and deserves to be directly examined:

    Instead of attempting to qualify which existing department should or does own or lead social engagement activities, within traditional corporate infrastructures and silos, the real question of deepest worth may be “has the advent of social engagement, greater organizational transparency, transversal responsibility for failure and success alike, and deeper demands from every part of the process (including consumers) for collaboration in development, innovation, productization, distribution, and iteration (breathe here) created not just an opportunity, but a demand, for organizations to review their org. charts, and functional infrastructures, in order to best respond to and manage new models and ecosystems in customer and client relationships, product sales and management, and other aspects of B2B and B2C business?”.

    Perhaps the answer lies not in shoving social media activities into one or the other pre-existing pigeon hole, but instead taking this opportunity to stir the pot more than just a little, and take some time to divest ourselves of 1950’s functional structures..?

    I have some strong ideas, based on my years as both a CMO at a multinational corporation, founder of a couple of midsized NPOs, exec at a number of other companies and organizations, and consultant to a bunch of others. This may not be the forum to share those ideas, but I urge everyone to loosen their grip on the past and present, and see this undeniably disruptive practice of social engagement as a chance to reinvigorate and possibly reinvent the way we manage innovation, human resources, market penetration, customer service, and so much more. Let’s not get carried away with a presently rather shallow tide, but let’s recognize that the tides have nevertheless shifted, and the currents are moving in compelling new ways which will certainly change the landscape. Where your ship lands depends on how well you learn to navigate these currents and tides, and how efficiently you reassign your crew.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks for the “blog post,” Nicholas! : )

      If I may, maybe the use of phones in an organization hits on part of this. Someone owns picking the right phones and phone system. Other may own formal use of the phones to make or receive daily, large volumes of phone-based activity. But for everybody in the organization (and audiences outside the organization with an interest in it) the phone is used to communicate about and move the business (and their interests relative to it) forward (ideally) across so many different dimensions. It’s a very simplistic comparison, but it’s definitely where social media / networking / innovation, etc. needs to head.

  7. You forget not just INTERNS but every Full time employee, manager, director, exec in the organization? Social Media is not something that a department or agency OWNS I believe it to be a SKILL that every single person in the organization needs to have, like typing and doing a google search. It’s why I created my company Impact People Practices to create more connected workplaces… and more engaged employees who ARE your brand and deliver outstanding results. 

    • Anonymous says:

      I didn’t forget about all other people in the organization, Christine. The point, which I believe we share, is the aspiration that everyone in the organization has a strong enough connection to the brand to be telling a piece of the brand story through the channels that make sense for them. Again, that’s an aspiration, which requires – as you suggest – training to be able to happen. Not everyone in organizations is handling customer service calls, sales, corporate communications, etc. Similarly, all employees in most organizations are not ready to be handed the reins to the brand’s social media effort just yet.

  8. Peggy says:

    This chart is a great impetous for conversations, as evidenced by the comments below!  Obviously you could have included many other groups/individuals that could be social on behalf of any company.  The key is that you raise the very important question regarding the resources who will be social…and how they will be social.

    legal would prefer that no one is social or that they only comment in an approved manner.  Interns will tweet about anything (relevant or not) that strikes their fancy.  Agencies will provide relevant content, but won’t have the authenticity of the brand expert….nor will they have the spontenaiety.

    that said – this is a great way to incite discussion with clients!  Thanks!

    • Mike Brown says:

      Thanks Peggy. I’ve been thinking more about this over the holiday, and looking back on the original version of the chart (yes there were rougher hand-drawn versions before this one), one impetus was a conversation about if a company wanted a certain type of social media participation (x and y axes) then what type of content creator could they “settle” for. So if you want to have interns do it, the content won’t likely be very rich or integrated. If you want rich conversation but don’t want to have to do it, you could settle for an agency to do it as a side activity to the business.


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