If there's been one group in the enterprise that has embraced social, it's marketing and communications. If there's been one group in the enterprise that has shrugged its figurative shoulders at social, it's the IT department.
But a funny thing is happening as social networking becomes increasingly critical to business efforts: Marketing is becoming the next big IT thing, and IT is becoming the next big marketing thing.
Marketing departments have typically been organizations' first and most fervent adopters of social networking applications and practices. And because so many social networking apps are public, very cheap, and easy to get up and running, it's been easy to leave IT and traditional technology procurement and implementation models out of the mix.
Now, however, as applications get more sophisticated and integration opportunities abound, many marketing departments are finding that their goals for social networking technology are exceeding the skills of their internal denizens. But rather than returning to the old ways of working with the IT department, many companies are dedicating IT staff to marketing and communications projects, while others are hiring marketing staffers who have focused tech skills.
[ For more on IT's role in social, see 5 Ways IT Can Stall Social. ]
"I have been in numerous meetings in which the marketing department was not aware of the technical options and the ability to do certain things in the context of a marketing campaign," said Ed Nash, president of Altius Management. "An IT person within the marketing team makes perfect sense, and ideally allows the team to be even more creative and realistic in their approach. Less time wasted, more time implementing cutting-edge creative campaigns."
At online printing company NextDay Flyers, there has been a blurring of the lines over time between marketing and IT, according to CEO David Handmaker.
Handmaker said two of NextDay Flyers' IT professionals act as liaisons between the marketing department and the IT team. "They join our marketing team for weekly meetings and are active participants in many initiatives," he said. "Their input is invaluable, and without their help we wouldn't be able to move forward in an extremely competitive online arena."
One of the big drivers for this melding of IT and marketing minds and mindsets is big data, noted Gregg Poulin, CMO of uberVU, which provides social media monitoring, analytics, and management technology.
"With social, there are now hundreds of millions of conversations going on daily that, when layered with contexts, become incredibly useful for marketing teams to use and engage their audiences in a smart way," said Poulin. "I believe that the requests for all the big data will soon become a request for intelligence or context on top of that big data, which will enable organizations to move forward and win against their competitors. IT departments would be wise to live and breathe marketing to be prepared for these shifts because it will soon be on them. The companies that get ahead of this will stand to reap big rewards."