If you have been in the social media space for a while, you can’t help but have heard of the new shiny toy, called social media command center. Companies like Dell and Gatorade have had one for a while, and many more are building new ones.
I have been following these developments for the past eighteen months, and for the most part, I see two main objectives for companies wanting to build these persistent capabilities (I am excluding the social media command centers that are set up exclusively for events, like the one built for this year’s Super Bowl): either to create excitement and market social media both internally and externally, and/or to build core social media listening capabilities within their respective organizations.
While I cannot argue against the 2nd objective (i.e., build core social media listening capabilities), I believe that building a dedicated physical space that people can walk by and be awed by / order the beautiful eye-candy charts on your monitors is not the way to go:
- Social media is not about pretty charts: So what if your Twitter followers have increased 15% from last year, or you now get 15 likes for each of your Facebook posts from India? How is that helping your business? I would argue if you are trying to drive change within your organization, a social media command center will not help you in the long-run. Are you continuing to prolong the hype by showing how social media provides instant gratification, and re-iterating the need for it to be separate from the rest of your business?
- Social media doesn’t work 9-5: While some of these facilities are staffed 24×7, I find it somewhat ironic that in 2012, we still have to create physical, and in many cases, time-bound instantiations of something that happens globally and virtually
- It is impossible for a small team to be intimately connected with the business: While for many organizations, this is serving as a triage center, I would argue the value of listening can only come from people who know the business, something difficult for a small dedicated team sitting at your headquarters to do. Unfortunately, the reality is that one of the main reasons why companies build a social media listening command center is because almost every social media listening tool is a complex beast that requires significant training and investment.
- Need to think through what you are trying to achieve: While I don’t want to underestimate the importance of listening to your core audience, you first and foremost need to understand why and what you are listening for. While social media has significantly increased the availability of data, with it has come an increased ability for us to be lazy and inundate our internal stakeholders with reams of (not so useful) data.
So, what should we be doing instead?
If you are still trying to figure out how social media can help your business, then my advice is simple. Take the money and resources you have allocated for your social media command center, and instead do the following:
- Find an internal partner and work with them to prove the value social media can add to their business. As I have argued before, this is not easy, but demonstrating how social media drives value for your business, is the best way to ensure adoption.
- Invest in social media tools that do not require an army of consultants to deploy and even more investments in the ongoing training of your employees to operate (see this post for more background).
I am now going to set-up my own social media command center to track all the negative sentiment that I am sure this post will generate. As always, I look forward to the debate and your comments.