We've seen many companies struggle with the question of who "owns" social media. In one sense, you are communicating to customers, so it must be a marketing function. But, isn't marketing usually "paid" and communications "earned?" If so, most social media profiles are "free," so it must be a communications function! Well, we've seen the most successful social media companies embrace both and use cross-divisional teams to find manage the space.

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This struggle, though, may actually be less important than previously thought, as social media is quickly becoming relevant to much more than communications and marketing. In fact, the next wave of the social media revolution will likely be in customer service and sales.

Imagine that you've just tweeted that you are tired of your current vehicle breaking down, and you are ready for an upgrade! What if a car company saw your tweet and someone from their sales team reached out to you with information about their latest models in your price range?

Sales teams have gotten pretty good at e-mail marketing, but I see a real lack of innovation in sales social media. Social media can give you a tremendous amount of input and insight on your prospects; you could even catch a lead in mid-status update. Imagine a time when all of your CRM databases include Twitter and Facebook profiles. You'd be able to really get to know your prospects and tailor your sales pitches to their specific needs. You might even be able to insert your brand for consideration with a prospect that wasn't even going to look at you. There's nowhere better to learn about your customers than from their own, hand-selected social networks.

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Communities bring people together. In the offline sense, people gravitate toward communities because they are able to share with others and benefit from team-dynamics. This means resources can be pooled to achieve common goals. In this sense, everyone wins when they join a community that they really care about.

Companies have been in the community-management business for a long time. Athletic shoe stores organize runner clubs and bookstores organize book clubs, but the really successful communities focus on the mutual benefits to members and organizers. These benefits have to be things that the individuals cannot gain or achieve on their own, or would at least find challenging on their own.

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