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Social Media “Is for the Young”… Until It Isn’t: Get A CCO

Social media as a practice and theory is a new phenomenon. That newness has led traditional businesses to either disregard utilizing social media or to neglectfully hand over the company Twitter account to a few college interns.

Don’t Leave It to the Young

social media flow chart

If you can make a flow chart of it, it deserves it’s own VP.

Each new tech advancement meets very similar public reaction: “Oh, that _____ is for the young.” This “for the young” label has been plastered across the top of every new advancement since the 1890s. That phrase reflects the grief for death of the old ways of life and an awe-slash-fear of the broad, sweeping lifestyle changes the new tech brings. Older generations are at the keepers of our most ideal societal norms, but the senior CEO’s are still in the fear stage with social media.

Older generations tend to be late adopters, as their wisdom about fads and trends is based on decades of experience. Late adopter skills are fantastic in helping us identify crap trends and hop off bad bandwagons, but too much bias against the new is just as damaging as getting swept up in the latest fake-buddhism cult.

Trains, Planes and Automobiles

Society integrated machine-powered transportation into our lives. We require licenses to drive, train tracks are designated solely for companies or public transportation organizations, and private plane pilots have to follow air traffic control commands. Structures exist to allow for the best use of transportation machines.

Society is still working on Communications best practices. It’s up to individuals to build a structure around social media that works for themselves. Social media is already being generated around your company and your product. Social media is already surrounding your family and your livelihood. It’s best to build a structure for it now.

Just like the job of “limo driver” came out of the automobile revolution, a “social media manager” is a specialty all to itself. Most companies seem to be handing social media duties over to PR and ad agencies, many of which are barely prepared for such endeavors. My friend Rick Becker outlines 5 “monkey wrenches” to throw into the theory that social media is the responsibility Public Relations. He hits on a great point that we early adopter GenXers have noticed since the ’90’s: Social media doesn’t fit well into pre-existing business structures.


Let’s think on this:

  • Social media isn’t only a PR or advertising duty
  • Social media doesn’t fit under an IT administrator’s job
  • A company historian isn’t meant to tweet out official photos
  • A webmaster isn’t expected to make sure every update is pushed out to G+
  • Customer service people can certainly use social media to listen for customer complaints or issue support solutions, but they cannot plan out and monitor online communications or design a social media flow chart.
  • Your customers would be all “Good feeling gone” about your brand if the lawyers were in charge


So where should social media sit in the company’s infrastructure? It’s time for a new department.

Introducing the CCO

Business communications have been so severely shaken up by the advent of social media and pervasive high-speed Internet that an entire department should be generated to house social media and its related offices. A Communications department with a VP-Chief Communications Officer (CCO) directly reporting to the CEO is the solution.

The Chief Information [Technology] Officer (CIO) should be under the CCO. Information and information technology is ultimately about communications, and all business infrastructure is based in good internal or external customer service. (Believe me when I tell you I had to learn more communications procedures than I did command line code for the systems administrator jobs I had.) Because Communications is a larger umbrella, the IT department should fall under it. I know CIOs across the world will balk at this, but a further examination of the structures and purposes of the departments would clear it up. At the very least, though, a CCO should be a VP/Board position that is equal to and a partner with the CIO.

Humans and businesses are not slaves to technology. Technology is a tool made and controlled by us. A CCO would be a person who understands how best to utilize all information and communications technology as well as manage internal and external IT, PR and Legal vendors to achieve the business’s goals.

More Reading

Another article on PurpleCar you may like about tech adoption (linked above): Fear of Facebook: Lifecycle of New Tech


 PHOTO CREDIT: David Bruce Jr. on Flickr

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Rich Becker 18 July 2013, 10:06 am

    Christine. You’re right on target. The first thing everyone says is how important social media is, but the first thing they ask is what to teach interns so they can do the work. Think about that one for a bit. Wow.

    • PurpleCar 18 July 2013, 10:46 am

      Thanks, Rich! It’s scary, right?

      I did have a very heartening client meeting recently where the owner said she was a bit wary letting a young Millennial tweet for the business. Her main complaint was the incessant grammar errors but once we met, she understood the larger implications.

      The fact is, though, most businesses are unwilling to invest any money in social at all. They just want it “to work.” It’s like the early computer days, when school records, company financial documents, and payroll was handed over to teenage hackers. That went horribly wrong, of course (War Games awesomeness aside). Companies eventually got wise. This whole social media lesson is taking waaaaay too long, despite the major gaffes already in the news.