Who owns the Internet? Obviously no one actually owns the Internet, but this is a question that I hear every day from big companies, because they want to know which organization within the company should take the lead with all Internet work. Big companies fail in Internet marketing every day because they waste time answering that question instead of just using the Internet. Large firms are trapped in the old thinking that problems get broken into small pieces, assigned to the right organizations, and "solutioned." But the Internet doesn't fit into any of those neat little boxes, and all attempts to squeeze it into an organizational structure are doomed to failure. Is your company stuck in the old silos?

Silos rule at your company if your company is still asking which group owns the Internet. Or what team owns search marketing. Or social media. The truth is that no one group ought to own the Internet in any organization, any more than one organization owns the telephone. Sure, one team owns the call center, but everyone else still gets to use phones.

I once had dinner with a very smart client who runs social media at a huge firm. She spends no time at all staking her claim to "own" social media at her company. Instead, she treats every other organization as her client, making sure that they know what they can do, how she can help, and how my company can help. She also wonders what standards and governance can be applied so the company listens with the same ears and speaks with related voices.

It's no wonder that she is wildly successful and her company is using social media effectively. So, how does your company stack up? Are you still fighting about whether marketing or IT owns SEO? Or whether PR ought to lead marketing for social media campaigns? And whether social media listening should be run by CRM or market research?

None of these questions are productive. The illusion that any of these groups has a corner on any of these new areas is a big part of what is holding back progress, and I spend a lot of my time helping large companies break through these impulses so that they can really benefit from the power of the Internet.

Take one example from social media listening to make the point. If one of your customers tweets, "The battery life on this phone is awful," which organization needs to see it? Almost every one does. Customer service? Check. Public relations? Yes, if it is something others are saying. Marketing? Sure, if this product is the big thing for the company that year. R&D? Absolutely, so they can correct the problem the next time around. Market research? CRM? Yes and yes.

Instead of focusing on who owns the Internet or search marketing or social media, instead focus on which organizations need to be involved and how they can share in the benefits. Your customer cares which company you work for, not which department you are in.

Originally posted on Biznology Blog
August 3, 2013

Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, text analytics, and web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.

Mike's previous appearances include Text Analytics World, Rutgers Business School, SEMRush webinar, ClickZ Live.

Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of Outside-In Marketing (with James Mathewson) and the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (now in its 3rd edition, and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.


Great post and we're in total agreeance Mike. It's the old debate, of who controls your social media...is it marketing, customer service, HR or someone else?

Comments closed after 30 days to combat spam.

Search Engine Guide > Mike Moran > The Internet blurs the old organizational lines