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 veryinteresting and worth exploring further. In the interview Marcel statedthat eventually “social” is going to become the responsibility of theCIO -- granted Marcel did say that this is at least one year out. To putthings 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.

“Thechief information officer (CIO), or information technology (IT)director, is a job title commonly given to the most senior executive inan enterprise responsible for the information technology and computersystems that support enterprise goals. The CIO manages theimplementation of the useful technology to increase informationaccessibility and integrated systems management.”

Social to the CIO or the CIO to Social?

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

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

I asked Gil to expand a bit on this andhe said,

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

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

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

“when all major players within the organization gettogether at the table. That means the strategy conversation needs to belike 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 alot of opinions on the matter and I don’t think anybody is right orwrong. Of course, the one big assumption here is that social will indeedbecome so widely integrated into an organization that it will becomethe CIO’s job to oversee it.

Learning Opportunities

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

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

Are theresome 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?

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

Wesaw a similar question arise when social first started gaining traction. Everyone was asking, “should companies be using social media?” Theanswer is yes, if it makes sense for them to do so. Now that manyorganizations have decided that social does make sense the questions get abit 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?