Digital CMO/ General Management

Social-Media Management: Whose Responsibility Is It Anyway?


by Vijayanta Gupta
Head of Product & Industry Marketing and Industry Strategy
Adobe Systems Europe

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Article Highlights:

  • If not managed properly, social-media posts by employees can get a company into trouble with regulators.
  • Taking interest in social-media management is no longer just the responsibility of marketing or HR.

Imagine the following scenario at a popular company that is listed at NASDAQ. One of the employees posts a seemingly innocuous little factoid on Facebook about the company. Then the SEC--the federal agency that, among other activities, is also responsible for protecting investor rights--comes calling.

Not only that, it informs the company that it is going to bring in a civil-action lawsuit because the innocuous factoid contains material, nonpublic information that should have been shared either through a press release or an 8-K filing. Now imagine that the person who did this is the CEO of the company.

Unbelievable? Not at all. That is exactly what happened with Netflix. Netflix started as a DVD-by-post rental company and has morphed into a film and TV show streaming company. The Facebook post in question stated that Netflix subscribers had enjoyed more than 1 billion hours of streaming content in a given month and was shared with 200,000 subscribers of the CEO’s feed, many of whom reposted the update.

On the day of the post, Netflix’s stock price rose. Any co-relation between the two is not yet clear; that is for Netflix and the SEC to work out. What is clear, however, is that if not managed properly, social-media posts by employees can get a company into trouble with the regulators. 

In most organizations, inappropriate or unsuitable social-media posts by any employee usually leads to a disciplinary action by HR. However, in this instance, the post attracted the attention of regulators, who have decided to hold the company responsible for the action of an employee on a social-media platform. Yes, the employee in this case is the CEO, so the post carries a lot more impact. But from the perspective of the regulator, material nonpublic information is exactly that--material nonpublic information--regardless of which employee makes it public without following the recommended protocol. 

In my previous blog post, I wrote about how an orchestrated tango between marketing and IT teams can become a lever for achieving “inimitable competitive differentiation.” However, this incident got me thinking: What about orchestration between marketing and HR as it relates to social-media management for companies? Setting social-media policies is within the purview of HR. Monitoring social-media posts, with agility, using the best-in-class technology, is within the purview of marketing. Encouraging them to work together to ensure that regulators don't come calling is in the purview of the company’s executive leadership. 

I am not suggesting that organizations go overboard and boil the ocean; all I am saying is that organizations should not neglect the fact that it is not only their customers, but also the regulators who are reading the social-media posts about their companies. Taking interest in social-media management is no longer just the responsibility of marketing or HR--it is an executive management responsibility.

About Vijayanta Gupta

Vijayanta Gupta is the head of product and industry marketing and industry strategy at Adobe Systems Europe. He leads Adobe’s industry-specific go-to-market initiatives, as well as the Adobe Marketing Cloud product marketing initiatives across Europe and the Middle-East. and Africa regions. Gupta and his team advises senior executives across industries on their digital strategies, and their perspectives on digital transformation are regularly published. Prior to joining Adobe, Gupta has held multiple leadership roles in Accenture, Microsoft, and Tata Consultancy Services across the UK/Europe, USA, and India. He holds an MBA in Strategic Marketing, a Master's in Computer Applications, a Bachelor's in Physics, and a Senior Diploma in Fine Arts. Gupta is based out of London and thoroughly enjoys the multicultural experience that the city provides.

The thoughts and points mentioned in this blog are his and not necessarily the perspective of Adobe.