I am often asked which department is responsible for social media marketing, content marketing and other forms of what people still call ‘new ways of doing marketing’. Please note that the question is about responsibility and management (who does what and where), not ownership .
My default answer to these kinds of questions is: it depends on many factors. It’s difficult to compare a large international B2B technology company with long sales cycles and a complex go-to-market model, to a local fast moving consumer goods e-commerce player or non-profit organisation. So let’s take a look at the responsibilities (not the ownership) in content marketing, a topic that is closely related to social media marketing.
As most of you probably know, the term content marketing was coined by Junta42’s Joe Pulizzi, and it emphasizes the use of relevant, customer-centric, multimedia and cross-channel content to support all possible marketing objectives, including lead management and community nurturing. Content marketing is mostly used in a cross-channel B2B context, but certainly not only there.
Do we need Content Marketing or Social Media Marketing Directors?
A while ago, Junta42 and the Content Marketing Institute launched a magazine called Chief Content Officer. I’m the editor of the European version and in the first edition of the magazine, Joe interviewed Ann Handley of MarketingProfs, whose business card mentions Chief Content Officer, about the role she has as a CCO (you can read it online here). The question now is whether or not you need such a CCO or at least someone who is ‘responsible’ for content (marketing)?
The same question applies for the social media director or social media manager or whatever you call them: do you need one?
When it comes down to social, the answer is quite simple. Social media can play a role in every department of your company and in every ‘business function’, including the underused ones such as customer service, HR or even R&D. You have executing roles for people such as community managers or web care collaborators (often integrated in customer service) on one hand, and on the other hand, you regularly see managers – certainly in larger corporations – with a global social media management role. Do you need those? The answer also depends on many factors. But if your business is professionally using social media, in several areas (not just in PR or marketing, as is often the case), it might require someone that has a social media director role, regardless of the name of the function.
Let’s look at the Chief Content Officer. Today content – and more specifically what it triggers – plays such an important role (within the right context) that businesses pay a lot of attention to it. Content touches all channels (social, email, SEO, etc) and all functions (sales, R&D, marcom, customer service, lead nurturing, PR, etc). Furthermore, it’s key in evoking emotions, engaging people and storytelling, with word-of-mouth and also conversation as important leitmotivs.
However, do you need a separate manager to oversee the content planning and marketing activities? In daily business practice, I have found unfortunately that this is indeed often necessary.
Why often someone should be responsible for content (marketing): the customer-centric failure
I say unfortunately because most companies are stuck in silo-thinking, have fragmented divisions and lack company-wide cooperation and overview. Businesses have always massively produced content and they increasingly do so. However, they often don’t realise it or only use an insignificant percentage of what they ‘have’. A content marketing responsibility is frequently necessary to ‘inventorise’ available content, advise a holistic and intelligent use of it and pro-actively foresee it while streamlining processes, building bridges, filling in gaps and having a cross-divisional supervisory role. In practice it is often a 360 degree and customer-centric thinking person, acting as a sort of human ‘glue’ between various divisions, life cycle based customer needs and business priorities. This person should have three simple goals:
- Providing the internal clients with what they require (sales, services, etc): ensuring that there is material for every person that comes into contact with the customer or prospect. This includes simple collateral but also multimedia and interactive content that can be used for need detection and for life cycle based customer interactions.
- Providing the external clients (in the broadest sense) with better information, relevant contextual content, and ways to ‘generate’ content themselves. Thus he assists in increasing customer satisfaction, customer loyalty, conversion marketing, up-selling, cross-selling, etc., but he or she also plays a role in conversations, word-of-mouth and storytelling.
- Improving the sphere of influence and social presence of the company in view of branding, reputation and participation by offering shareworthy and engaging content, integrating user-generated content, combining inbound techniques and for optimising conversion processes, using various types of content depending on the context (personas, transactional behaviour, peer recommendations, etc) .
The content marketing centipede
A content marketing responsible has a direct impact on branding, conversion and bottom-line. He also has frequent and systematic contact with all divisions and knows about their needs. He or she understands what SEO is, what conversion processes are, how social media marketing works and how inbound and outbound channels enhance each other. He or she knows how content travels on social networks and especially why it travels. He or she is people-centric and knows what influences behaviour. It is therefore someone who can not easily be fitted in with existing divisions.
The ideal person is hard to find and more often than not you will need several people to have all these skills. The marcom or PR team is definitely not where he or she belongs. After all, he or she has to cooperate closely with other services such as sales, R&D and product marketing. He or she must be involved at a very early stage in the development of new services or products, the organisation of events, the establishment of lead management processes etc, to avoid that the content comes at the end of the chain. He must also develop new initiatives, among other things, in the area of content-intensive campaigns or interactions.
So its a new role after all? In an organisation where collaboration is poor and where management fails in streamlining the business objectives in a uniform (read customer-centric) way, this is unfortunately necessary. After all, are there many businesses today that are able to streamline everything in a data driven and a holistic way? Is there someone in a company that has a single customer view, who can inventorise, create, repurpose, curate and optimise all content related activities depending on numerous objectives and needs at the same time?
Very few, I am afraid and that’s a real pity. Try the following exercise. Just look at how many presentations your product managers, consultants and analysts have; how many white papers you have within your business or – if you are in an internationally active group – are available via ‘corp’? How much content and knowledge does your company possesses without it actually being used optimally for your customers, prospects, social connections, all possible business objectives and internal and external needs?
Content marketing and social media marketing are all about ‘customer-centricity’
AJ Huisman, an early adopter of the content marketing approach in his international marketing career, expressed it like this when debating the topic: “If you have an organisation that is clearly aware of what the customer needs and wants to hear, then you definitely don’t need a Chief Content Officer. However, I have rarely come across organisations where this customer focus comes naturally”.
Everyone within an organisation should really act a bit like a Chief Content Officer, AJ told me, since everyone should feel the natural urge to think like a customer and to understand what more can be offered to the same client or prospect, by combining and using all the relevant content flowing within, from and to the organisation.
As AJ puts it: “Maybe it would be better if we call him a Contributing Content Orchestrator – someone that contributes to combine all content, as though he or she was a conductor, in a relevant and harmonious manner in real-time. In the end, we all have to contribute to that same purpose”.
And that purpose has a name: the customer, in the broadest possible sense of the word.
Just as in social media marketing, everything revolves around customer-centricity and therefore, per definition, coordinated collaboration. If that doesn’t happen, all required change management included, businesses miss out on various opportunities. And then it is almost impossible to identify and use all the information and content that you dispose of in a useful way for your customers, communities and therefore, in the end, your short-term AND long-term bottom-line.
A ‘social’ company is a customer-centric company. And what goes for social media, goes for content marketing as well. In fact, it goes for marketing and business in general.
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