Inside Nissan’s social media command center

The automaker developed a ‘command center’ not only to craft and hone its online messaging, but to share ideas internally. That’s crucial, says its customer strategy chief.

“The social media space moves so rapidly,” says Nissan’s senior manager of social media and customer strategy, Bryan Long.

In a recent presentation, he talked about the past, current and future state of Nissan’s social media program to explain how they’re developing the customer experience.

Long’s department started in 2012 with four people. Since then, they’ve grown to have six to eight agents at any given time-six of those, Long says, are “strong-willed millennials.”

Although his team is steeped in customer care, he says it’s a little more complicated than just being a part of the call center. Long calls it a “hybrid model” of customer service.

“We’re based in the headquarters building, but we’re not a part of consumer affairs-we’re not even in the same vertical. We’re not in marketing, and we don’t report to PR, but we listen on behalf of the entire organization,” he says.

Although they concede it’s an unconventional model for a big brand, he says it’s worked well for his team.

Their initial workflow was not without issues. Here’s how it has progressed from September 2012 to now and where they see it going:

“In the past, it was absolute craziness. Everybody had to have their finger in it, and it was nuts trying to route information. Moving forward, we’ve simplified it quite a bit as we’re taking on more work and finding better, easier ways,” Long says.

“In the future, we’d like to have the opportunity to talk to customers directly. Is this last workflow oversimplified? Absolutely. But will we get there? Hopefully.”

In 2015, the team launched a social media command center, which is physically structured to be wide open and accessible. When you get off the elevator on Long’s floor, you’re right in the middle of it. He says the command center is helping them get to their future state of social media, because it’s helped his team sell ideas internally.

“One unintended benefit of the command center is that we’ve held 40 different presentations bringing in different groups to give them a tour and explain what we’re seeing,” he says.

They also host a “social media monthly” meeting inviting anyone who has an interest in social media to learn about what’s trending, what they’ve posted and what they plan to promote.

“We try to integrate ourselves into the business as opposed to them integrating themselves into social media,” says Long.

He says that to move forward, they have to think about things a little differently: “We don’t have the time to take it slow. We have to leapfrog and get social into the business, and the way we do that is to speak the language.”

Long says that entails showing how social media can increase revenue, decrease risk and reduce cost:

  • To increase revenue, Long’s team is looking to foster communities (like the emotional segments in their half-ton class of trucks) and expand their lead management capabilities.
  • To decrease risk, he says the biggest thing they can do this year is focus on protecting Nissan’s reputation. That includes governance, getting employees up to speed on social media compliance and creating training groups.
  • To reduce cost, they’re using tools strategically across channels and the organization and resisting the push to adopt a new technology or platform from every agency they work with.

In the end, Long says they’re focused on bringing different pieces of the organization together for a better customer experience.

“The automotive industry spends a ton of money in advertising, and we’re still big spenders in TV. The worst thing that can possibly happen for us when we’re spending those kinds of dollars is to have the message break down somewhere,” Long says.

He explains that there are lots of places for that potential breakdown: advertising, native websites, consumer affairs, dealer websites and the dealership lot.

Long says: “There’s not a better tool to manage and connect all of those pieces together than social media. That’s our goal-to make sure we’re tying those pieces together.”

You can watch Long’s full presentation here. A version of this article first appeared on SocialMedia.org.

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