Social Command Center 1.0

For many organizations and brands – the early days of “social media” resembled both the Wild West and a gold rush all at once.  Brands realized that consumers, customers, and people in general, were empowered to say what they wanted about them.  And unlike conventional conversations, everything that was said would be documented via digital, on the Web and in some cases archived through search engines.

Brands realized they had to get smart about what was being said, and that there was a rapidly growing blind spot between what they thought of themselves vs what people thought of them – and were willing to talk about in public via some form of social media, whether it be a blog, tweet or Facebook post.

Thus, the “Social Command Center” was born.  Dell – one of the first brands to launch a Social Command Center was no stranger to conversations about the brand in the public forum.  They had flagged and prioritized customer service issues.  And while seeking to improve the customer experience, they were one of the first to understand that having your finger on the pulse of social data was becoming critical to getting ahead of issues – as well as having a more comprehensive understanding of what your customers think about your company and products.

From Command Center To Newsroom

Brands globally began to inherently understand this value and undertook similar initiatives building out rooms with space age screens, dashboards, and displays that look like something right out of NASA.  As the space evolved, brands began not only listening to conversations and analyzing content – they began producing content directly themselves, often distributed on social and digital channels.  The next iteration of the “Social Command Center” started to operate more like a “Newsroom.”

Brands began to hire journalists to staff these newsrooms and blend editorial sensibilities with an ability to directly publish their stories and create audiences.  The premise is fairly straightforward; it’s not enough to simply listen to inputs from social, web and search – brands must have the ability to directly influence opinions, perceptions, and attitudes formed through these influential channels.

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Photo: Dairy Management Inc’s Industry Newsroom (courtesy of Edelman)

The Problem And Opportunity Social Command Centers Create

In solving one problem (a blind spot created by the social Web) we’ve created yet another.  Social Command Centers with their fancy screens, dashboards, technologies and forward-thinking staff, are producing yet more data for an organization to understand, absorb, and act upon.  The current problem to solve for many organizations is that we simply have TOO MUCH data and aren’t really sure what to do about it.

We’ve become data rich and insight poor. All of the technology and slick looking dashboards in the world cannot themselves produce meaningful insights that tell us something about consumer’s unmet needs or what people are really thinking when they say one thing and do the opposite.  In solving for our blind spot, we’ve created yet additional data sources which have to be poured through and analyzed in order to be understood and acted upon.

Social Command Centers Must Evolve Into Insight And Intelligence Hubs

The days of blinking dashboards and real-time data are behind us – it is now an expectation that an organization should have some ability to have their finger on the pulse of what’s happening as documented by the digital world around them daily – if not hourly.  Dashboards and rooms to display real-time data are fast becoming a commodity.  It is not the data we can detect and display that matters, as much as the analysis and strategic thinking that goes into making sense of that data, and distilling it into actionable insights that different parts of the organization can act upon.  This is the promise of the latest iteration of Social Command Centers, which is to cut across marketing, communications, customer service, and R&D to isolate nuggets of value from trending data sets.

To evolve current Social Command Centers into Insight & Intelligence hubs will require organizations to integrate what happens in their command centers with other functions, such as R&D and with other data sets such as CRM.  In addition, machines and technology will never produce the insights and intelligence we need. It requires analysts, planners, and strategists to interpret data, compare it to other data sets, and make judgment calls based on their knowledge of consumers, customers and the business.

The Time Is Ripe For Social Command Centers To Grow Up

Brands who have already invested in building out teams, processes, and technologies that allow them to gather and aggregate search and social data have a head start, but it’s time for Social Command Centers to grow up.  A recent example: Barilla has a network of “listening rooms” across several global markets.  In addition to “listening” to digital signals, teams work across functions to address critical business opportunities.  Data is not simply extracted, but revealing analysis and recommendations are shared, often resulting in product optimizations or retail partnership programs.

The bigger opportunity for brands exists to shift the focus from simply gathering search and social data to comprehending what it means for multiple parts of its business and while acting upon it intelligently.  Expect to see the shift from less valuable data to more valuable and actionable insights over the next several years.