When I see people really think about social media and business, they always ask the question, “Who owns social media?” This question has a lot of answers. Some people argue marketing. Other people argue PR. I’ve even seen it be argued that HR owns social media. At the end of the day, most people agree that no single department in a company owns social media, and it’s up to the everyone to use it correctly to promote and serve the busineses purposes.
That’s positive, wonderful and unfortunately idealistic thinking. When I look at the question, I tend to turn it around on itself. I think about who really owns social media, and when I boil it down, the answer is always a corporation.
Facebook owns Facebook. Twitter owns Twitter. Google owns YouTube. News Corp owns Myspace. Pick your network; the list goes on. This problem is one of the most inherent and troubling aspects of social media. All of these networks are under the guide and plans of corporations. Some are privately owned. Others are public. Still, they are under the guiding principle to make money by keeping you on their enclosed, private network.
This is something we often forget with social sites compared to e-mail. While your e-mail address may be owned by Google or Yahoo or whomever, the system that e-mail uses is not limited to something owned and controlled by a single company. Twitter, Facebook and the like don’t do that. When they go down, and they do go down, the entire network suffers.
And what about the content you put on there. Sure, as much as you can you retain the rights to it, but you also submit some of those rights to the discretion of the company who is hosting that content. I know I am vastly oversimplifying this issue, but while you lose full control of things anytime you post them online, you lose even more control when you submit them to these services.
So, should we stop using social media sites? No. For right now, those sites are the best we’ve got. However, with fail whales on the rise and deeper issues to think about, I think there exists an amazing potential for someone to create an e-mail-like system for tweets, or a better open profile. The need to own our social media is there. It’s time for someone to make it happen.