How to build a social media command center

Organizations including Coca-Cola and Southwest Airlines have social media command centers to better engage with customers online. Here’s how you can build a successful one.

Many organizations have established social media command centers to amplify and accelerate their marketing and engagement with customers.

Creating a command center involves establishing policies and procedures for interactions, installing hardware and software to manage the war room, and selecting dedicated staff.

Organizations such as Coca-Cola and Southwest Airlines have created physical spaces and hired dedicated staff (typically with deep backgrounds in digital analytics). Smaller organizations are considering doing so, too.

However, some organizations have created command centers without establishing a clear strategy and purpose. Marketing teams that create social media command centers simply because they’re trendy run the risk not only of wasting money, but of setting back their digital marketing efforts. An unused or poorly run center is a tangible marketing failure.

One of my clients established a social media command center without a detailed purpose or dedicated team. The center is now a squatter’s office. Employees use the large-screen TVs to tune in to sporting events more than to engage with customers.

Start with why

To set up your social media command center for success, begin by defining your goals. Here are some possibilities:

  • Monitor the social media conversations of your key audiences (customers, journalists and employees).
  • Conduct real-time marketing and engagement during events.
  • Provide customer service.
  • Track customer insights and analytics.
  • Uncover field marketing opportunities.
  • Manage social media communities.
  • Monitor competitors.
  • Monitor industry trends.
  • Educate employees.
  • Empower operations.

With well-defined goals and a clear plan, you can move on to other key decisions.

Build the social media command center

Even a modest set-up can have many moving parts:

Analytics: Defining analytics should go beyond tracking shares, “likes,” retweets, etc. A well-defined analytics plan can encompass dozens of measurements but will identify and focus on the most crucial.

Staffing: Many organizations outsource monitoring to agencies. This offers some advantages for cost, staffing and scalability, but shifting customer interactions to external staff doesn’t benefit all brands. Look beyond cost to consider the strategic importance to building—or not building—this competency in-house.

Software: There are more than two dozen software solutions for monitoring and engaging via social media. Select the right one for you by carefully analyzing the cost and benefits to your organization.

Hardware: A social media command center requires a certain amount of infrastructure, including computers, connectivity and monitors. Involve your IT team so they can provide the right solutions.

Location/visibility: For many organizations, a command center is a visible commitment to customers. Therefore, carefully determine its physical location. Put it where it will be most helpful to executives and staff beyond the social media team. Some companies have their command centers behind a glass wall in the heart of their headquarters or in their customer center so it’s a highly-visible effort (because it should be).

Of course, no one can walk into your company and dictate the best solution. You must carefully weigh all the above factors. A social media command center is a big financial and strategic commitment, but these guidelines should help you think through the possibilities.

Do you have anything to add?

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Rick Wion is a Chicago-based business and marketing consultant for Manifest Social. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn . A version of this article originally appeared on {grow} .

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