Who owns social media?


Following on from Mark Cridge’s comments in New Media Age last week, Joseph Jaffe has an inspired rant in this week’s Adweek:

Exactly where and when did the digital space earn the stripes and credentials to tackle the high roads of authenticity, transparency or peer-to-peer collaboration (just to name a few of conversational marketing’s core tenets)?

The PR business is really no better and no worse than the digital one when it comes to social credentials. With its claim of being champions of “earned media,” it tacked the word “relations” onto blogger, lumped it together with “media relations” and “journalist relations,” and somehow went unchallenged.

Whereas the digital space has very little claim to the “physical” world and hasn’t proven itself in the virtual space, the PR industry resides more comfortably in the physical world, with a superficial grasp of the digital space and an anemic understanding of the virtual one.

I’ve seen client after client duped into charging a digital or PR agency with-arguably-the most transformational opportunity we’ve been given in our professional lifetimes and the result is almost always a shambolic disappointment. From Sony or Wal-Mart’s fake blogs to the recent Skittles.com mess, the culprits are almost always digital or PR agencies.

There’s an acute and fundamental flaw in equating “social” with “digital” or “social” with “earned media.”

So what’s the solution?

If you’re reading this, you already know the answer…

Update: In response to the comments below, the title of this post is taken straight from the title of Joseph’s article on Adweek, and it’s pretty clear he’s not questioning the ownership of social media as a whole, but rather what sort of agency is best placed to help brands deal with it.