IT Juggles Its Social Media Roles

Social media used to be solely a marketing task. But now that its use is expanding, does IT play implementer, cop, manager or all of the above?

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Because the company is publicly traded, having control over the marketing technology helps Neeb make sure it's in compliance with regulations, such as those spelled out in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and guidelines promulgated by private industry groups, such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards.

Unlike American Greetings, International Speedway will let pretty much any employee post on its websites and social media sites, but first they must go through what Neeb calls "a small little training program" that takes about an hour.

Some of that open attitude is reflected in the company's management structure. "We don't do anything in functional silos," Neeb says. "Our digital strategy isn't owned by a department." It's owned by marketing and IT, with support from HR, legal and compliance, he says.

Neeb thinks that companies will have to adopt broader management of social media."I don't see how you can effectively manage any media outlet in a vacuum," he says, noting that IT brings expertise in technology for compliance, security and systems management.

IT should also increase its own use of social networking tools. While customer support organizations are embracing social media, Gartner analyst Jarod Greene says less than 1% of IT help desks use social networking to support users.

Still, as social media spreads, CIOs are hitting the "like" button more. Robert Half updated its social media survey in May; this time, only 31% of CIOs said their companies banned social media, compared with more than 50% in the earlier survey.

CIOs who want a seat at the social media table should use the tools in their own work and personal lives, Marx says. "If I came up and said, 'Hey, I want to be part of the social media strategy around here,' and I didn't tweet, I didn't blog, I wasn't on Facebook, I didn't use LinkedIn, I'd have no cred," he says.

Marx says he keeps up with trends with the help of his staff. He also has two doctors who are involved in IT, and they help him stay in touch with the needs of medical professionals. In addition, he has embraced reverse-mentoring, having enlisted a twentysomething staffer to counsel him on new technology.

"CIOs can't be noobs," says Marx, meaning newbies.

Especially if they want to avoid being anti-social.

Fitzgerald is a freelance writer based in Cambridge, Mass.

This version of this story was originally published in Computerworld's print edition. It was adapted from an article that appeared earlier on Computerworld.com.

Next: Getting IT reorgs right

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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