Social media “command centers”—dedicated physical spaces for setting up conversation monitoring tools and the teams that operate them— are growing in popularity thanks to the likes of Dell, Gatorade*, and Intel at CES. Most recently, the Raidious Social Media Command Center (SMCC) at Super Bowl XLVI garnered attention as an on-site listening lab, which Edelman visited two days prior to the event. This SMCC was dedicated to capturing online conversation from guests attending the Super Bowl festivities in Indianapolis, essentially functioning as a concierge service provided by the Host Committee to produce content that answered guest questions.

The real-time command center has many applications beyond capitalizing on immediate opportunities or becoming more responsive to potential threats. Used in conjunction with social intelligence auditing, the command center can also be leveraged to inform and shape communications strategy, thus playing a critical role in the foundations of a company’s social business plan.

Before you build and implement an ongoing or event-based command center for your project, brand, or organization there are several things you’ll need to consider.

  1. Purpose: Defining What Your Command Center Will Do
  2. The first step is to clearly define the purpose for your command center, thus setting a clear foundation for your project. As you set objectives, think about the questions you’d like to answer based on the data you collect and how you want to use that information. Do you need to better understand a community, identify influencers, determine how a brand is perceived, listen for customer service complaints, or catch potential issues early before they become a crisis?

    Decide whether you want your command center to act as a concierge service, serve as a social media pulse-check, ladder up to broader business intelligence efforts, or assist in real-time corporate/brand/reputation/crisis monitoring. Once you know what your command center will do, you’ll be well-positioned to use its powerful data effectively. If you don’t have clear objectives, the data will be overwhelming and useless.

  3. Planning: Getting Ready for Operations and Logistics
  4. Once you’ve outlined the need for a command center, think about what that purpose implies for your facilities, operations, and data. There’s a lot of planning involved in building out a command center, and the underlying purpose impacts how you should prepare for and structure your center.

    Any listening lab will require special considerations for wiring and accessibility, but an on-site, temporary lab may require additional attention to power supplies, data storage, parking for staff, and temporary building access at odd hours, depending on the event. Staffing your command center will vary depending on the “shop hours” required by the brand, which will be determined by your strategy and response plans for the command center.

    Your strategy for engaging and interacting with audiences as you capture their comments and questions should be driven by whether your purpose is to monitor for crises, answer customer service questions, facilitate conversation among community members, or post breaking news updates.


    A look inside the Social Media Command Center in Indianapolis.

  5. Platforms: Where to Focus Your Monitoring Efforts
  6. No matter how you decide to set up a command center – whether you’re building out a room full of dedicated computers and data displays or just configuring a desktop application – you need powerful monitoring tools to get the job done. To maximize the effectiveness of your command center, make sure you’re choosing tools that allow you to capture data on platforms where people are actually talking about the issues you need to cover.

    For example, you might find that niche social networks or LinkedIn discussion groups are the best places to find brand conversations you need to monitor. Or, for an event-based monitoring assignment, you might find that local news sites house even more questions from local attendees than Twitter, depending on the demographics of those who attend the event. Choose tools that hone in on these conversations that are important to your purpose.

  7. Process: You’ve Built It, Now What?
  8. Implementing processes that are clear enough to provide direction for the people involved, but broad enough to include all possible situations, will be most important in this phase. As you define your process, you are essentially mapping out what to look for, how to look for it and what to do when you find it.

    It will be key to leave room to correct your thinking and/or operations. You may find that people you want to engage with aren’t connecting with you for some reason. Or that you need to refine the technology you’re using to reach or monitor them. Further, there may be emerging themes that pop up that need your attention – such as security or crisis issues – and you’ll need to have a pre-determined way to handle them.

  9. People: Choosing the Right Team for the Job
  10. Having a solid framework in place for purpose, planning, and platform will help you to identify the right people to staff your command center. If you are using the command center as a concierge service, it will be helpful to have a community manager who understands how your customer service department works.

    If you’re using the command center to keep a pulse on what’s happening with the community to measure campaign effectiveness and mine insights from data, you will need analysts who are fluent in the business objectives of your organization. Additionally, those analysts should be able to identify meaningful insights that go beyond the simple, automated data your platforms can provide.

    The Super Bowl Command Center is a great example of how to leverage the right people to successfully drive content and measure results. Staffed by experienced strategists, social media managers and content producers, with a layer of student workers and volunteers who were familiar with the Indy area and had a cursory knowledge of social media, the team was able to follow through on each purpose they identified while managing a large amount of traffic.

Ultimately, implementing a command center-type program in your organization will require more free-flowing information and staff between departments in order to be most successful. If you have experience with command centers, what advice do you have for setting one up?

Michelle PRieb

Image credit: kaoticsnow

*PepsiCo is an Edelman client.

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