Who owns corporate social media? A NZ researcher reports

Emma FitzgeraldEmma May Fitzgerald is a marketing student from Auckland who’s done in-depth research on the state of social media in corporate communications, as her MCom thesis. You can read a full summary of her research here.

I talked with Emma about the study and its key findings. 

1. What made you choose this thesis topic? 

Social media is top of mind for a lot of marketing professionals but there is only emerging knowledge of how it can support an organisation’s strategy. We live in this hyper-connected world, and the boundaries around organisations and between our personal, professional, and public lives are increasingly blurred. It feels like we are never entirely disconnected from work, nor our personal social networks. Everything (or anything) is just a click, swipe, or touch away. From my personal experience growing up with digital technology, and observations working in marketing roles, social media is accelerating the blurring of these boundaries.

My research explored how large organisations can approach social media applications support an organisation’s long term success by applying knowledge of corporate communication (the coordination of marketing, management, and organisational communications). Understanding social media from a corporate communications perspective seemed interesting and more holistic approach than a purely marketing/customer-centric view to social media. The aim of my research is to capture some of these early views of current and potential applications of social media that are relevant to an organisation’s overall strategy and long term success.

2. How many people did you talk to for this thesis? How long did it take you? 

Masters students usually interview about 8-10 people, but I had such an amazing response rate and such a variety of responses that I had the opportunity to interview 30 different marketing and communications professionals from industry and agency roles. 26 of these interviews were included in the final analysis. I took some time out from full-time work at the end of 2012 to complete the interviews and write my thesis which was submitted 1 May this year.

3. What’s changing about the way businesses use social media, and what’s not changing? 

Especially in the last year or so, awareness of social media and its potential uses for businesses has spread beyond marketers. C-suite executives and Senior Management are becoming more familiar with social media and its potential to contribute to the organisation’s strategy. It’s no longer viewed as a task for just the interns or office girl/guy Friday.

However, social media seems to be largely approached by large organisations as a channel for broadcasting marketing communications. It’s still a bit of an afterthought or not integrated into other communications planning.

Many organisations are still in the process of this transitioning their culture and values towards dialogue and collaboration. There’s a lot of hype and talk about dialogue and engagement – but it’s very hard to achieve and often calls for organisations to revisit their communications culture.

4. In the arm-wrestle for which department “owns” social media, who’s winning? 

Ideally, no one department should ‘own’ social media. Without organisation-wide interest in social media which is supported by Senior Management it is unlikely to be viewed as a valued communications channel, and consequently, will become (or continue to be) a silo-ed and marginalised communications channel.  An arm-wrestle could be the best thing that could happen for an organisation’s social media strategy!


Got questions for Emma? Ask them here! 

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