Nearly a decade into existence and social marketing is fledgling when it comes to proving business value.
Marketers insist that social is important at every stage of the customer journey, particularly during the awareness, conversion and advocacy stages, but rank social lowest of any channel in terms of measurement confidence in our surveys (clients only). The latest CMO.org survey echos our findings. While spending on social tools is up, “almost half of firms (44.1%) say they haven’t been able to show the impact of their social media spending; the ability to integrate customer information…is weak and not increasing; and only 4.6% say social media contributes very highly to company performance.”
The thing is: social marketing is really still in adolescence. To make it through the teenage years (aka: through the Trough of Disillusionment), it’ll need prudent investment, structure and guidance.
If social marketing is your teenager, the social command center is their first car – whether a 90s Accord or Telsa, it’s one of the biggest investments you’ll make in them.
Follow these commandments to ensure your command center is a vehicle for maturity and productivity and not just a shiny toy.
1. Thou shalt honor the customer. This is the first and greatest commandment. The word “honor” has so many great synonyms and nearly all of them apply here. It means admire the customer – study her, understand her. It means respect the customer – content, engagement style and privacy all come into play here; engage with her on her terms. And, perhaps most importantly, it means follow the customer – let the customer guide your command center strategy. If your customer is on Facebook and Snapchat, but not Twitter, a command center with a Twitter stream is a waste of time. Defer to the customer – if you aren’t ready to listen and to let the consumer be right, you aren’t ready to engage in social media in real time.
2. Thou shalt not build a shrine to technology. We marketers have a tendency to get really excited about aesthetics, but building a command center is not a redecorating exercise. Monitors and futuristic collab spaces may be involved, but streams and screens are not the end game.
3. Thou shalt remember the vision and purpose. Speaking of the end game, you need one. And “launching a world class command center” can’t be it. Before moving forward, consider how the command center will be used to support the CMO’s key initiatives. Some organizations deploy command centers for PR and brand monitoring, others for streamlining and accelerating customer care through social, others for crises or events. All of these are possible, common use cases, but to justify a command center investment, you need explicit commitments in support of real goals.
4. Thou shalt staff it appropriately. Consider the human resource implications of real-time monitoring. Will your command center be manned only on special occasions or throughout the workday? Will you need to extend work hours to respond to events in other time zones? Commit dedicated resources from cross-functional teams including social media experts (obviously) but also media, analytics, customer care, creative/graphic design, legal and tech support. There’s not a lot of point in putting everyone in the same room if those people don’t have the authority or expertise to address customers’ needs on the spot.
5. Thou shalt put process in place. Review and refine the process for analyzing data as it comes in, assessing and ranking opportunities or threats, creating responses, editing and approving responses, posting content and monitoring content performance. Every team member should know the workflow and their role, as well as how to escalate if certain scenarios are presented. Don’t assume the team will just know what to do when put in a room together.
6. Thou shalt value data over display. My grandmother used to say “pretty is as pretty does.” Which is a very southern version of the old adage “it’s what’s on the inside that counts.” This is true for so many lessons in life, not the least of which being your command center. It’s so tempting to select the vendor with the sleekest interface or most bells and whistles, but your output will only be as good as the input. Carefully consider the data sources that you need (see commandment #1) and the type of analytics and filtering that best suit your use case and make those your primary selection criteria.
7. Thou shalt break down silos. Social marketing doesn’t exist in a vacuum and your social command center shouldn’t either. Pull together cross functional stakeholders to participate in developing the command center’s charter and invite them to contribute their own data or leverage yours for complementary use cases.
8. Thou shalt go virtual and mobile. Want to really get people’s attention? Sometimes the answer is not big, but small. Physical, large installation command centers look cool, and proximity certainly does foster collaboration in a special way, but increasingly the screen that gets the biggest share of attention in a day is the one in your pocket. Make command center data and workflow accessible on mobile for marketers on the go. Even consider ditching expensive infrastructure commitments altogether and opt for a mobile-friendly dashboard that’s totally virtual.
9. Thou shalt cultivate the cultural value. Sometimes the greatest benefit of a command center is not the insights, real-time marketing, or improved customer experience. It’s conversation – the water cooler kind, not the Cluetrain Manifesto kind. Public data displays open up the potential for collaboration and create a culture of transparency and empowerment. As I’ve said before, data-driven culture is worth spreading.
10. Thou shalt curate the content. Command centers don’t really provide access to new data. They just make the data you already have a little harder to ignore. When it comes to making sense and taking action, more, bigger and faster can be a mixed bag. An effective command center doesn’t drown its users in a sea of noise. Rather it employs advanced analytics – anomaly detection, sentiment and network analysis, machine learning – to surface only the important stuff. Reading every tweet about every product from every person sounds like a noble cause until you realize there are five million incredibly inane ones per day.
Living by these commandments will decrease your likelihood of failure, but can’t, unfortunately, guarantee your investment pays off.
Evaluate all of the costs – infrastructure, data, people – and expected outcomes. Considering the diminishing returns on organic social, the challenges with access to data feeds from some channels, the lack of representation on others, and the high costs of hardware and data, many marketers will come to the conclusion that their current toolset is working just fine.
This week’s content line up (for clients only) is all about social marketing and analytics investments. Check out our analyst picks including Should You Invest in a Social Command Center? and other guides to social technology sourcing.
Bottom line: Even awkward teenagers have the potential to change the world (or the business), but first they have to learn the rules.