Looking for Value in Social Media Command Centers

4 minute read
Barry Levine avatar

Companies and brands are setting up social media command centers to get a better grasp of the unstructured data like status updates, posts and tweets.

PepsiCo's Gatorade opened a Mission Control Center in 2010 and Dell opened a Social Media Command Center later that same year. Since then,  other companies have followed suit, including Hendrick Motorsports, The Oregon Ducks, Symantec, Salesforce and Brandwatch.

Now the Altimeter Group takes a look at the trend in a report called "Shiny Object or Digital Intelligence Hub?"

Just Shiny Monitors?

The report's central question: "Is [the social media command center] just a set of shiny 60-inch monitors in an executive briefing center or does it have demonstrable value throughout the organization?"

In the first stage of social business, which the report identifies as 2006 to 2009, the idea was to build community and engagement. Since 2009, companies have entered the strategy phase: many firms have appointed social strategists to get a handle on the impact of social media.

Now we're in a new "insight and action" phase, characterized by a flood of big data that holds promise of providing insights that go far beyond such metrics as likes or re-tweets. Companies are using "command centers" to centralize responses to and analyze the data and brand messages from social media. 

The report profiles three brands – MasterCard, eBay and Wells Fargo. It found five main use cases for the command centers: listening to conversations, engaging with social media users, publishing content, analysis for trend- and issue- detection and routing issues to the right department.

Learning Opportunities

Altimeter Group - social media contact centers.jpg

From the Altimeter Group report, "Shiny Object or Digital Intelligence Hub?"

'More Like a Contact Center'

But the command centers also are looking toward new technology that can reduce complexity through automatic categorization, extract meaning at scale, route issues automatically, view social data in the context of customer relationship management and other business systems, and make the publishing of relevant content easier.

Susan Etlinger, the report's principal author, told CMSWire that these centers could eventually serve "as multipurpose, multidata stream" facilities that are more integrated with contact center, marketing automation systems and other customer-facing digital tools. A social command center, she noted, is a kind of contact center without phones, and she pointed out that MasterCard's command center, for one, is thought of "more like a contact center."

  • MasterCard's Conversation Suite, operating 24/7 in the company's Purchase, New York headquarters, is focused on listening to relevant social conversations and educating customers about MasterCard's position as an electronic payments company. The center's data can be viewed remotely by those with the proper logons.
  • Meanwhile, eBay has to manage about 80,000 social media mentions about its brand every day. Its center, soon to go 24/7, is intended to provide what the company calls "a single source of truth" for both incoming social data and outgoing customer service management.
  • Wells Fargo's center has nearly five dozen users of command center dashboards and data in both its San Francisco headquarters and other locations. One of its goals is to support the transformation of its employees into brand advocates, consistent with regulatory requirements.

Included in this report are recommendations for companies that are evaluating whether they should set up their own social command center, such as asking what the focus will be, who will have access and how it will benefit the company.

The study profiles this commitment to social media and points to some of the values being obtained from data analysis and quick, coordinated responses. But it largely leaves open a key question: Are these social data centers more effective than they would be if they existed as distributed systems? In other words, do large companies – and potentially mid- or smaller companies – that establish round-the-clock war rooms for social media have an advantage over those that take a more distributed approach?