If you were the CIO of a corporation would you be worrying about or at least focusing on social? Why or why not? I explore that question and speak with a few folks on the topic, the answers may surprise you.

When I interviewed Marcel LeBrun, the CEO of Radian 6 a few weeks ago, he made a statement that I thought was very interesting and worth exploring further. In the interview Marcel stated that eventually “social” is going to become the responsibility of the CIO -- granted Marcel did say that this is at least one year out. To put things in context we were discussing Social CRM when this came up (customer facing social initiatives).

Before we explore this topic further let’s take a look at how Wikipedia defined or explains the role of the CIO.

“The chief information officer (CIO), or information technology (IT) director, is a job title commonly given to the most senior executive in an enterprise responsible for the information technology and computer systems that support enterprise goals. The CIO manages the implementation of the useful technology to increase information accessibility and integrated systems management.”

Social to the CIO or the CIO to Social?

As social becomes more and more integrated within an organization it’s going to take on less of a departmental role and more of an organizational role; when this happens, “social” will come to the CIO, or will it?

I had the opportunity to speak with a few folks on this topic, among those I spoke to was Gil Yehuda, the Director of Open Source at Yahoo! Gil actually had a very interesting perspective on this and said, “the question isn’t when social is going to come to the CIO, it’s when is the CIO going to come to social.

I asked Gil to expand a bit on this and he said,

“the CIO is an executive at an organization who has proven himself, social however is still a bit new and is in many cases still proving itself. When social can prove itself then the CIO will come to it.” Gil also added that the proper approach to looking at all of this is as follows, “people first, problem second and solution third; social is the solution and is the last thing that organizations need to be thinking about out of the three.”

A few other folks I spoke to who wished to remain anonymous said that social should be the responsibility of the CIO. One person told me, “what’s the difference between a tweet and an email? You still need a process and you still need some sort of way to record information, the CIO is responsible for that.” When I asked this person when social will come to the CIO he said, “when the first CIO gets fired as a result of not paying more attention to social.” Some people were blatantly dismissive of social ever getting to the CIO and when I asked them if it would ever happen their simple response was, “no way.”

Blake Landau, a fellow contributor to CMSWire, said that the way social is going to get to that level is

“when all major players within the organization get together at the table. That means the strategy conversation needs to be like a dinner of the 12 Apostles with seats for the CEO, CFO, CMO, CIO, CR(egulatory)O, CL(earning)O, in addition to seats for VOE and VOC. Frank Eliason and Art Hall have both said this should like like a “Center of Excellence”--but more specifically a center of "cross-departmental excellence."

As you can see there are a lot of opinions on the matter and I don’t think anybody is right or wrong. Of course, the one big assumption here is that social will indeed become so widely integrated into an organization that it will become the CIO’s job to oversee it.

As of now, we have yet to see that level of integration. In fact according to the Communications and Public Relations General Accepted Practices 2010 report, “over 25% of companies put between 81-100% of budgetary control of social media in PR’s hands, compared to marketing, with only 12.6%.”

In my opinion we shouldn’t be getting ahead of ourselves. As Gil mentioned above, the first thing we need to be thinking about is the people. “Social,” as a technology comes later down the road and I think we will see a natural evolution of how and where social fits within the enterprise.

Are there some CIO’s who are currently paying attention to and focusing on social? Yes. Are there other CIO’s out there that ban social media altogether? Yes.

So, Now What?

I really don’t think there is a simple yes or no answer here nor are there a series of steps or best practices for something like this. At the end of the day social makes sense when it solves a particular business problem and that’s when the CIO should pay attention to it.

We saw a similar question arise when social first started gaining traction. Everyone was asking, “should companies be using social media?” The answer is yes, if it makes sense for them to do so. Now that many organizations have decided that social does make sense the questions get a bit deeper but the answer is the same...when and if it makes sense.

What do you think? Should social come to the CIO? Why or Why not? When do you think this will happen?