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The Internet blurs the old organizational lines

Who owns the Internet? Obviously no one actually owns the Internet, but this is a question that I hear every day from big companies, because they want to know which organization within the company should take the lead with all Internet work. Big companies fail in Internet marketing every day because they waste time answering that question instead of just using the Internet. Large firms are trapped in the old thinking that problems get broken into small pieces, assigned to the right organizations, and “solutioned.” But the Internet doesn’t fit into any of those neat little boxes, and all attempts to squeeze it into an organizational structure are doomed to failure. Is your company stuck in the old silos?


Silos rule at your company if your company is still asking which group owns the Internet. Or what team owns search marketing. Or social media. The truth is that no one group ought to own the Internet in any organization, any more than one organization owns the telephone. Sure, one team owns the call center, but everyone else still gets to use phones.

Grain Silo

Image by Ryan Orr via Flickr

I had dinner with a very smart client last night, who runs social media at a huge firm. She spends no time at all staking her claim to “own” social media at her company. Instead, she treats every other organization as her client, making sure that they know what they can do, how she can help, and how my company can help. She also wonders what standards and governance can be applied so the company listens with the same ears and speaks with related voices.

It’s no wonder that she is wildly successful and her company is using social media effectively. So, how does your company stack up? Are you still fighting about whether marketing or IT owns SEO? Or whether PR ought to lead marketing for social media campaigns? And whether social media listening should be run by CRM or market research?

None of these questions are productive. The illusion that any of these groups has a corner on any of these new areas is a big part of what is holding back progress, and I spend a lot of my time helping large companies break through these impulses so that they can really benefit from the power of the Internet.

Take one example from social media listening to make the point. If one of your customers tweets, “The battery life on this phone is awful,” which organization needs to see it? Almost every one does. Customer service? Check. Public relations? Yes, if it is something others are saying. Marketing? Sure, if this product is the big thing for the company that year. R&D? Absolutely, so they can correct the problem the next time around. Market research? CRM? Yes and yes.

Instead of focusing on who owns the Internet or search marketing or social media, instead focus on which organizations need to be involved and how they can share in the benefits. Your customer cares which company you work for, not which department you are in.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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