The Chief Social Revenue Officer

Or, "Who Owns Social Media (Take 3)"

I continue to ponder the cultural implications of social media and Web 2.0. Last week I declared that the CEO owns social media, and I stand by that assertion. But this week I was prompted to ponder this further by a post from Amy Kenly on the Innovation Experts Network in LinkedIn. She asked (bold is LinkedIn's):

How are manufacturers taking advantage of social computing & Web 2.0 technologies to raise the bar on product development performance? Where is the intersection of social computing, PLM & innovation?

She went on to share some insight into the question from PLM (that's product lifecycle management for you non-manufacturing types) analyst Jim Brown from his article on "social product development". Here's an excerpt from that (bold is his):

The implications [of social product development on manufacturers] break down into two categories. The first implications are about the applicability and importance of social computing in product development. You have probably heard me talk about this before, and this report helps confirm and expand my thoughts on the subject. There is clearly something of value happening with the intersection of this exciting and popular new way of communicating and the business of developing profitable products.

The second set of implications fall into the category of practical advice and lessons learned to take advantage of this new opportunity. The opportunities are available, but the most important thing is that manufacturers don’t discount the applicability of social computing concepts based on their personal experience with Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, or any other social networking sites. Manufacturers have to see through the use of these communication techniques for “fun” and see the significant business potential.

This potential will likely never come from the public social networking sites, but instead by incorporating these “Web 2.0? concepts into existing infrastructure and product development solutions. This is the most practical method to both achieve the value, but also ensure that product data and intellectual property (IP) is protected and that the solutions are used in the right context – to improve products and projects that drive corporate profitability.

This got me thinking about revisiting marketing titles and roles. My response to her:

Social product development is an excellent way to frame one facet of the impact of social on the enterprise -- the other obvious area being social marketing.

Most companies have started with social marketing. Here's the catch: if your business isn't equipped to deal with what Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li call the Groundswell, you could find yourself in hot water when something goes really right or really wrong.

Social marketing is dangerous if the only public face is a lowly marketing intern, agency rep or other marketing person with no input into other aspects of the organization. If that person, however high up in the org s/he may be, cannot bring the engineering team, product management, HR, customer service or any other relevant team to bear to respond to issues raised in the public domain, they will get called out for it and put to task.

The "who owns social media" question has resurfaced recently, and my answer was the CEO. Now that may not be realistic in many organizations. Perhaps its time we created the role of the chief social officer, who can ensure that it all runs smoothly, and that the proper feedback loops are in place between marketing, engineering, customer service, management and the "crowd" or "tribe".

Since I posted that Wednesday evening, I thought more about the implications of social across the organization. I've argued for quite a while that a big component of social media is cultural -- and that implementing it across the organization requires some serious change management chops.

I also agree with Inc. Magazine that "title creep" is filling up the C-suite, so maybe a chief social officer is an unnecessary addition. Inc. calls out a still-growing recognition of the role of "chief revenue officer:"

The storied C Suite is getting a little more crowded, as CEOs, CFOs, CMOs, and CTOs make room for CROs, or chief revenue officers. Such executives typically are marketing officers on steroids--overseeing functions like sales, new product development, and pricing.

This revenue generating focus was called out in a post by Scott Gillum (again, bold is his):

So…the marketers that will be in the highest demand coming out of the recession will be the ones who have been aligned or have had direct responsibility for growing revenue. Marketers that can speak the language of sales. Unfortunately, it will be a slow process for folks with a Brand PR and Corp Comm or the Ex-Agency/Media guys.

Marketers with backgrounds in Product Management/Marketing who have owned a P&L, folks with sales backgrounds and/or marketers who can show that they can drive revenue/growth will be in demand first. The challenge for the other groups is that of supply. It’s not to say that good Brand and Agency folks won't find positions it’s that it’s going to be hard. Expect that you will be [competing] with many other qualified candidates and it may be difficult to differentiate yourself.

While I will continue to argue that social media is owned by the CEO, I think all of this research shows that there's a growing need for restructuring organizations to incorporate "social" across all functions -- from finance to HR to engineering to customer support and, of course, to marketing. Perhaps the chief social officer is the conduit for that change, but maybe we ought to call him or her the chief social revenue officer. I'd love your thoughts on this role.

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