If we look around, we will find social media living inside the media department, the creative studio, within account planning, at the desk of PR, and even in the intern's bullpen. Further, it's often partially or wholly outsourced to third parties mirroring that same swinging range of categories. It's all over the place.
This groping for location seems to have intensified as agencies and companies work to mature their approaches to social media, recognizing that it's more than tweeting links to news stories, running social ads on Facebook, rounding up a few fans, or troubleshooting customer service issues via Twitter and calling it a day.
I'm convinced that the amorphous organizational existence of social media has also spawned the return of an urge in certain industry circles to rename it -- indicative of the lingering tension around pinning it down as a discipline. On one hand, we acknowledge that precise nomenclature and definitions are essential to advance a discipline, especially one that's actually been around and evolving since the '90s. On the other hand, the quest to locate an organizational niche and name or rename social media does not accomplish much.
Rather than obsess on finding a singular home for this discipline, I believe we'd do well to back up, look at our workflow and think about how we can collaborate. Here are a few considerations that come to mind:
Our ability to properly organize and have our teams thrive around research, planning, execution, measurement, etc., correlates to our ability to do the same with social media. If our org is already a mess, rife with cross-department dysfunction, social media as a practice will get lost in the shuffle.
I think of the practices of online audience development of yesteryear, when message-board seeding, interactive PR and online guerrilla marketing were commonplace. There certainly wasn't much rumbling back then about where this stuff lived. It just wasn't an important conversation to have. We were simply getting our feet wet.
But now that our cross-platform digital infrastructure has reached such scale, and each platform bears so many options, the pronounced attention to where social media should live has forced the issue of productive agency collaboration. Unfortunately, as we reach what might become the heyday of social media in 2010, collaboration is still more awkward than we might like to admit.