In this era where brands hit home runs or strike out in real-time, social media command centers have become more common. They may serve different purposes, but whatever the goals, they require advance planning and substantial resources.
At ANA’s recent Real-Time Marketing Conference in New York, speakers from three major brands shared their experiences and offered their perspectives on what’s involved:
We’ve distilled their comments into a primer on each aspect of the process. Their advice could prove useful for other companies to establish new command centers or fine tune existing ones.
1.Decide on goals: Objectives for social media command centers vary, from listening to conversations, monitoring and analyzing sentiment to creating customized real-time content based on current events.
2.Ongoing vs. temporary programs: Capital One’s command center was set up for the NCAA basketball tournament (“March Madness”), while Coca-Cola’s “Hub Network” and MasterCard’s “Conversation Suite” are permanent functions. Both brands also double down during special events, like MasterCard’s DigitalPass launch or Coca-Cola’s FIFA sponsorship.
3.Pay attention to space design: “Think through the venue’s physical dynamics and seating arrangements”, McLean advised. Capital One co-located their in-house staff and digital agency there. MasterCard’s collaborative space is situated in the middle of the HQ office.(image above)
4.Designate staff and agency roles: “Make sure everyone essential is there and that each person has a clear set of responsibilities”, McLean said. All three speakers recommend involving experienced specialists, either posted at the command center or easily reachable. Expert content producers are key, particularly reporters, vloggers and videographers.
5.Streamline necessary approvals: Obtain pre-approvals where needed from legal. Capital One even had a lawyer on call to ensure their ability to react fast.
6.Rehearse the process: The command center team needs to practice “to see who makes the final calls and pushes the buttons”, said McLean. MasterCard does “mock examples first so we’re ready for prime time”, Cohen reported.
7.Create shareable content: Draft timelines and prioritize content, Busk suggested. Evergreen stories, category related issues and timely events-based posts are all worthwhile. As McLean observed, even if the topic is sports, don’ overlook the lifestyle angle.
8.Focus on visuals: They all prioritize images and have designers on hand to create infographics. They gave examples, such as Coca-Cola’s Royal Baby announcement, and MasterCard’s Grammy Awards infographics. (image)
9.Tap into celebrity influencer audiences. McLean said they found it valuable to find well-known figures, both male and female, that are basketball fans. And as Busk added, don’t ignore lower volume influencers, like scientists.
10.Make savvy use of hashtags: It’s important to “respect the conversations already out there on Twitter”, Busk said. Brand related hashtags can also be used, like Capital One’s #RallyCry.
11.Offer foreign language capabilities: English still prevails, Busk noted, while Cohen said MasterCard also tracks content on China’s Weibo social platform.
12.Monitor conversation velocity: “Check how fast the discussion threads are growing and identify the best time to reply”, Busk emphasized.
13.Be crisis-ready with advanced capabilities: “Have the technology in place for positive events so you’re ready to respond in case of crises or attacks”, Busk noted. Coca-Cola has experience handling hate hashtags, and their investigation showed spambots to be the cause. Cohen said MasterCard’s system helped confirm the brand wasn’t involved in a credit card data breach.
14.Center serves as social media hub: MasterCard hosts “social jams” in the Conversation Suite, and every invitee has a reason for attending. Brand spokespeople may stop by, though no word from McLean on whether Capital One’s Charles Barkley or Alec Baldwin paid a visit.
15.But it’s not party central: McLean did point out that the space shouldn’t be left open for anyone to wander in to watch the games, since that’s disruptive. Busk agreed that for Coca-Cola, a bouncer could occasionally come in handy.
(Images courtesy of MasterCard)
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