"Social command centers" are all the rage today and it's not without some merit. Many organizations now find themselves in a real-time business environment where news travels faster than sound, and information is set free. As a result, some forward thinking companies have put "monitoring" in place either in-house or in combination with partners. This isn't enough. And to make matters worse, I've seen companies make the classic mistake of buying a tool BEFORE putting any thought into the design that goes into effective monitoring and response, forgetting the 3P's (People, Process, Platforms). Tech platforms are only one third of the problem.
The media hasn't helped. "Social Command Centers" as physical spaces ripped from the playbook of NASA have been documented via Dell, Gatorade and most recently, the Super Bowl. Now, to be clear—a physical space can make listening, engaging and responding in real time effective—but it's not a requirement. In fact, for the organization who wishes to be able to function in real time for the long haul, it's the wrong place to focus on. So, how does any organization who wishes to be better equipped for real-time business move forward? Based on some of the work I've been doing with our analytics teams at Edelman Digital—below are some high level recommendations for setting up your social command center, without the center.
1: Set Up The Infrastructure
If your organization is not currently equipped to take in large amounts of social signals and process that data in real time—it's imperative to start with the three P's:
Most organizations forget that any initiative is dependent on people no matter how effective the tool and they forget to start here. Don't make that mistake. First, decide how much your organization can invest in terms of training people to both use the tools and have "listening" become either part of their job or the job itself. Go to the organizational design drawing board and begin to map it out. See who has done it before and if you don't know who has—find help here. Many organizations will find out that they need assistance in the form of professional service providers. Even here, work on the org design to determine how resources, both internal and "outsourced" work together for maximum integration.
Another area where many "command center" initiatives fail is that they gather the signals, but don't have the internal process in place to share the insights and intelligence. If your organization has spent money on tools or even people but haven't figured out how to effectively communicate (internally) what you're hearing, it's wasted investment. A process must be designed which connects multiple stakeholders together who can quickly get information and perhaps more importantly be able to connect with others on intepreting what it means. Internal social networks which act as collaboration hubs, can play a role here—but again, without a process (and the right culture) in place, the tools won't matter. A system must be designed here which can quickly get information out to key stakeholders across multiple silos, but those groups must commit resources and leadership to support the process.
Not all tools are created equal and some perform better functions than others. There's no shortage of tools which started as listening and are moving into the CRM (Customer Relationship Management) space, or social publishing platforms that are extending into the monitoring and response category. There are tools which will work with existing enterprise platforms and those which claim to be end to end. There are also technology platforms who will offer services around their tools and those who don't. The golden rule when choosing a platform is to remember that a technology company at the end of the day always views their technology as the best solution. We typically recommend comprehensive audits here—as well as bringing together both internal decision makers and key partners together before pulling the trigger on a technology solution. It's also recommended that SOME thought be put into both people and process before making a decision on tools. The most common scenario I've seen is the reverse—which leads to more cost and less efficiency, retrofitting people and process to work with a tool which may have not been the best pick in the first place.
2: Analyze For Meaning
Data. It means nothing without analysis. In order to even get to any kind of meaningful analysis, you mist first set up the right filters and taxonomies. Your company for example may have a product name which also comes up in other industry conversations in total unrelated context. Once the right taxonomies and filters are in place, it requires brains to detect patterns and extract any kind of meaningful insight from the data. These brains are not just the data analysts but also people across your organization who should be pulled into the "command center" and tapped for their area of expertise. Individuals from R&D, customer care and even HR can be relevant here.
3: Optimize Content & Engagement Tactics
There are really only two immediate actions any organization can take from having a command center infrastructure in place. The first is to optimize any form of communication asset which goes out. The second is to optimize any form of engagement (example, talking to anyone in a forum, social network, or commenting on a publication). Both content and engagement tactics are informed by the social intelligence captured, disseminated and digested by the designated individuals who are part of the command center ecosystem. Content and engagement tactics can happen across a number of digital and real world properties. Traditional media, (mainstream), Hybrid (blogoshphere), Social, (networks and forums) and Owned (apps and corporate sites).
4: Monitor & Measure New Signals
If you're going to invest in a social command center (without the center), you'll need to be able to measure and report progress, not only intelligence. Every piece of content and every interaction should be designed to create a ripple effect or reverberate a signal which your command center should be able to pick up and track back to the source. The source should be connected to your efforts whether ranging from correcting inaccurate information, to levering social channels to rectify a bad customer experience. Everything we do in the digital space sends a signal. Some are faint and some get picked up. As part of a command center construct, an organization should design it so it can not only trace signals back to their origin, but connect them to business objectives.
It's worth noting that as with everything else attached to the word "social"—a command center construct is not a magic bullet nor a solution for your business problems. However, it can be an effective move your organization makes in calibrating it for real-time scenarios which is becoming all too frequent as a result of social technologies and the behavior it influences. Today, your customers, employees and competitors can send signals in real time. My hypothesis here is that within the next 5-10 years, nearly every organization will have some kind of system like this in place which works to their benefit.