How are Social Media Activities Organized?

We asked respondents four questions about how they organized their social media activities and the impact of that decision:

  • Whether they were centralized or decentralized
  • Which function or individual controlled the activities (if any)
  • How effective their organizational structure for social media was
  • Whether they would reorganize these activities by the end of 2014

The responses show big differences across the four regions. But viewed on a global basis, by far the most common approach for organizing social media activities is centralizing them at the parent company (rather than in the divisions). That approach was taken by 47% of the respondents we surveyed. However, North American respondents were much more likely to do this: 54% did, as against only 35% in Latin America, 40% in Europe and 41% in Asia-Pacific. Those regions were more likely than North American respondents to centralize social media in each division, in one group or function per division. And they were more likely to decentralize them by division – but keep them coordinated. In contrast, 11% of North American respondents decentralize social media by function in every division and do not coordinate the activities. That only happens in 6% to 7% of respondents in the three other regions. (See Exhibits II-22 and 23)

Exhibit II-22: How Social Media Activities are Organized (Globally)

Exhibit 2-22: How Social Media Activities are Organized (Globally)

Exhibit II-23: How Social Media Activities are Organized (by Region)

Exhibit 2-23: How Social Media Activities are Organized (by Region)

Having social media centralized at either the parent company or in a division is the most common structure – exhibited by between 66% and 74% of the respondents (depending on the region) and 69% overall. It offers economies that just can’t be gained when functions control their own social media activities. The respondents that centralized social media will spend an average of $16.3 million each on it this year. In contrast, those that decentralized their social media activities will spend about 50% more: $24.5 million. (See Exhibit II-24)

Exhibit II-24: How Centralization and Decentralization of Social Media Affects Spending

Exhibit 2-24: How Centralization and Decentralization of Social Media Affects Spending

The responses to the second question on this issue of organization show how much central control of social media is exercised by the marketing function – especially in North American companies. Around the globe, marketing is more likely to control social media than any other function: 35% of our total respondents said marketing controls it, whereas ‘multiple business functions’ control it in 13% of respondents, and the CIO/CTO had control in 12%. Viewed another way, the customer-facing functions of marketing, sales and customer service controlled social media in 45% of respondents. A function that wasn’t controlled by these three departments (IT, a separate social media group, a chief digital or customer experience officer) controlled social media in 35% of respondents. (See Exhibit II-25)

Exhibit II-25: Who Controls Social Media? More Often Than Other Functions, It’s Marketing

Exhibit 2-25: Who Controls Social Media? More Often Than Other Functions, It’s Marketing

At the regional level, a major discrepancy exists between the way North American companies control social media and how the other three regions control it. In 54% of the North American respondents, customer-facing functions control social media. That’s only the case with 40% of European and 38% of Asia-Pacific respondents. And it’s much lower in Latin America, where only about one-quarter of respondents say marketing, sales or service owns social media. (See Exhibit II-26)

In fact, in Europe, about as many respondents say that a ‘neutral’ function (one that it isn’t marketing, sales or service) is just as likely to control social media: IT, a social media group, a chief digital officer or a chief customer experience officer. These functions are even more likely to control social media in Asia-Pacific companies (47% of respondents) and Latin America (63%).

Exhibit II-26: Who Controls Social Media Depends on the Region

Exhibit 2-26: Who Controls Social Media Depends on the Region

All to say that the control of social media as a marketing tool is most pronounced in North American companies – and least pronounced in Latin America and Europe. Domination of the social media discussion by marketing limits social media’s reach (and thus potential), especially when viewed in the context of the 15 possible goals of social media discussed earlier.

The answers to our third question about the organizational structure of social media activities reveals that only a minority of companies are satisfied with their current structure. Only 42% of all respondents termed their structure ‘highly effective’ or ‘effective.’ A greater percentage (58%) called it ‘somewhat effective’, ‘slightly’ or ‘not at all effective’. (See Exhibit II-27)

Exhibit II-27: Effectiveness of Respondents’ Structure for Social Media

Exhibit 2-27: Effectiveness of Respondents’ Structure for Social Media

Some regions were happier than others with their structure:

  • 55% of Latin American and 58% of Asia-Pacific respondents saw their structure as effective/highly effective
  • But only 38% of European respondents and 35% of North American respondents said it was effective/highly effective

Asked whether they would reorganize their social media activities by the end of 2014, the majority (51%) said that was likely. Only 15% said it wasn’t likely, and 34% weren’t sure. (See Exhibit II-28)

Exhibit II-28: Whether Respondents Will Reorganize Social Media

Exhibit 2-28: Whether Respondents Will Reorganize Social Media

  • North American and European respondents were equally likely to reorganize social media by the end of next year (45% of respondents in both cases).
  • But curiously, 63% of Asia-Pacific and 72% of Latin American respondents said they would likely reorganize social activities as well – even though a greater percentage of them saw the current structure as effective.


Mastering Digital Feedback – Findings: Regional
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