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Author's profile photo Carolyn Brock

Is it Time for a Chief Social Officer (CSO)?

A new twist on an old debate: Many have argued the case that social media should be a function of Marketing, or Corporate Communications, or Public Relations – but what about the C-suite? Keep in mind I’m thinking of large corporations.

No one questions the need for C-level representation for marketing or finance. Those are considered functions germane to the business. Social media, however, is usually relegated to a non-executive function of one or few departments, with limited if any executive oversight.

Social media practitioners know that social ought to be a cross-functional discipline. My experience, though, is that coordinated social media engagement across the organization is not the norm, especially in large companies.

Merkle CMO and contributor David Williams has an interesting perspective. If your company is not ready to embrace a C-level role, then the CMO better step up and appoint him/herself to the role. He writes:

“So maybe your consumer-facing organization isn’t ready for a c-level post dedicated to social marketing. But one thing is for sure, the CMO had better embrace social, and soon.”

Williams’ approach is spot on to extend marketing’s reach. What I’m hoping to see in the future is a more coordinated approach to social media, where social media reach and amplification is an integral part of a company’s culture – where social media isn’t some stand-alone tactic practiced by a few – but a way of doing business ingrained in the company culture.

While not all employees have a propensity or inclination for social media, the organization as whole needs to look for ways to lift social media activities out of one or two departments and into and across the whole company. Adding a C-suite role for social media would relegate social media to a functional area rather than treat it as a discipline that should be embraced by all functional areas. 

To answer the question I posed in my title, I say: No. Corporations need all of their executives to lead by example – to build their own social brands and enable their employees to do the same. Let each CxO serve as social media ambassador – for their functional area and for the company. Executives need to embrace social media as an integral part of helping the company perform its key business operations, whether it’s developers sharing coding, marketers extending offers, field sales networking with local peers, or HR managers recruiting prospects – nearly all roles and functional areas within a corporation can benefit by leveraging social media.

Do you know of any companies that have a Chief Social Officer? How does the CSO encourage social media across the organization?

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      Author's profile photo Sylvana Chang
      Sylvana Chang
      I'm looking forward to seeing socila media becomes the major commnication tool for both internal employees and external partners, customers, & prospects. In order to achieve this level, commitments & implementations from executives are the keys!


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Excellent post, Carolyn. I really like that you took an opposing stance to the question you posed and offer real-world advice for helping organizations integrate social media as a practice across the enterprise, without expecting that they need to do so in a way that alienates those who feel uncomfortable using social-media tools. Thank you for this work.