Archive for August, 2012

Breakdown: Social Media Workflow, Process, Triage


Rise of Social Commerce, an Altimeter ConferenceLeft: Altimeter Research found that most companies lack a formalized process –and even out of the advanced, only 76% had a process in place, read the full report on Social Readiness.

The purpose of these breakdown posts is to serve as an industry reference as the space advanced to optimization and performance.  The assumption is that a company is forming a Center of Excellence or ruling body, or has recently done so before deploying this key component.

Needs: Companies desire to be efficient –not having a workflow puts company at risk
Like our bodies, cities, and corporations, all complex organisms have a natural process and order that helps to reduce inefficiencies and increases the end goals.   So what if you don’t have a workflow?   This could put your company at risk from lack of coordination, as multiple individuals could be responding at the same time, your customers may not be properly served in social channels, resulting in lost opportunities and potential customer dis-satisfaction.  In the worst case, this poor experience in social could serve to fuel a social media crises, which we’ve documented.  Clearly, we want to avoid this scenario, and instead develop a workflow that cascades across the multiple business functions, product groups, and geographies to quickly and effectively serve the market in social channels.

Definition:  A Social Media Workflow, Process, or Triage is a sequence of connected steps that enables the entire organization to act efficiently with minimal overlapping tasks and resources in order to serve the market in social channels and beyond.

Business Goals: The 10 Attributes of Successful of Social Media Workflow
First, let’s align the goals of having a successful social media workflow in place, benchmark your goals against the following attributes:

  • 1) Alignment with corporate goals and customer goals.
  • 2) Buy-in and agreement to the process from all involved business units in the organization.
  • 3) Few or no overlapping tasks and resources.
  • 4) Clear articulation of who will do what, when, where, and how.
  • 5) Organizational alignment through training, testing, and refinement.
  • 6) Integration with existing business systems, processes, and software in existing channels.
  • 7) A clear, easy-to-reference document with clear labels and requires little explanation.
  • 8] Scope includes all possible scenarios are included when to respond –and when not to respond.
  • 9) Periodic improvements on the process as the business evolves.
  • 10) Measurable business impacts report to all stakeholders on a periodic basis.

Downsides: Identify the Six Roadblocks in Advance
No business initiative goes without risk, and developing a social media workflow could result in the following risks:  1) Scrutiny over the social media program at executive level, 2) Internal territories intensely guarded as a battle over who owns social and the customer experience is fought, 3) Chiefs step in to stop the program until the bigger picture is obtained, 4) A long arduous process is undertaken to get buy in from the entire corporation, which can be saddled if clear executive sponsorship is not setup.  5) Failure to align with existing customer experience channels such as phone, chat, online, and in person.  6) A large risk is the organization not adopting the workflow, falling back into old habits, if a proper rollout is not invested.

Starting with Strategy
Ensure all social media activities (and all else we do) align with the company mission and goals, let’s ensure we’re prepared in having a strategic direction with our peers, executives, and team.  Start by:

  • Ensure the Goals are Established and Aligned.  Obtain agreement from an executive sponsor, ideally one that spans the business groups in which you will engage.  Remember, something as pedantic as creating a workflow diagram will excite the organization, resulting in groups to balk, or give their buy-in.  Do this by reminding all teams that this is alignment with corporate goals like: customer satisfaction, generating new leads, reducing internal confusion.   Clearly label the business goals, and assign interim business KPIs that directly map to these goals.
  • Next, Map out Existing Processes and Interview Teams.  Expert Jason Falls shared that “Getting the right stakeholders on board from the onset that makes a triage process successful”.  Whether you’re in corp comm, customer care, or legal, you’ll need to get buyin from other groups.  Start by obtaining existing workflows of how customers are routed, and then interview each team for their needs.  Lead with business goals, but instead put on your listening cap to get their important point of view before you assert yours.  Then, bring all diagrams back to one document, then ascertain the best process and provide suggested workflows.  By allowing business units to vote, modify, and provide input will extend your influence from ‘over-reaching’ to instead getting the ideal ‘buy-in’.
  • Avoid the Mine Field by Including Overlooked Stakeholders.  Projects can quickly become disparaging if one group inserts and stops the process because their needs were not met.  Remember to obtain buy in from corporate functions that are often overlooked including:  PR, Corp Comm, Customer Care, IT, Call Center, Regional Field.  In particular, loop in Legal, Risk and Compliance in the early days.  Jason Falls shared that a leading airline carrier in United States involved legal early on, and had an ongoing role: “A member of senior management and legal are on-call 24/7 to approve and mitigate messages when needed. That’s pretty strong.”
  • Rollout Internally through Education, Testing, and Breaking.   Emailing a powerpoint triage to all teams that will be involved in the day to day is not sufficient.  Ensure a proper kickoff is initiated by conducting a training session, as well as conducting mock process drills in real time.  Start with having teams identify message and which routing path it should go into, then simulate how teams will tag, flag, and pass on messages.  Ensure proper followup and recording of incident is inputted to correct systems.  Be sure to take the process to the limit by simulating crises (see full post) and taking the organization to the level where the workflow is designed to not engage due to critical crises situation.
  • Continual Iterations and Coverage, Periodic Measurements.  Don’t expect this workflow to perfect in the future, plan on periodic assessments to improve in real time, or at key scheduled dates.  Ensure that fire response (corp comm, legal, execs) teams are actively updated on the impacts of the workflow as they may not be involved in daily affairs.  Provide all stakeholders periodic reports based on the business KPIs agreed upon, including potential items such as:  reduced time to respond to customers, increased customer satisfaction, number of successful incidents resolved, or leads passed to sales for followup.


Notable Examples of Social Media Workflow, Process, Triage
Community Management Scenario Map
Community Management Scenario Map from David Armano, Edelman 
Key decision is based on sentiment, then several if/then statements enable process.Screen shot 2012-08-29 at 8.49.41 PM
American Society of Civil Engineers’ Social Media Flowchart, via SocialFish
Notice that breach of policy has special actions, also note SLA is set at 1 hour.

Radian6’s client support protocol
Radian6, owned by Salesforce Provided an Engagement Playbook
Support issues are routed to existing customer support channels, with variation on non-customer use cases.

Air Force Blog Assessment
Air Force Blog Triage, older, but one of the first diagrams we saw emerging in 2008
This is a classic which many others are built on, the armed forces have a deep heritage in threat assessments and clear training for enlisted and officers.

Tactics: Anatomy of an Enterprise Social Media Workflow

Workflow Attribute Attribute Details What No One Tells You
Flow control All workflows (even outside of social) help to control where process will flow.  Ensure these workflows include how companies will handle overflow during product launches, events, and off hours and holidays.
Crises situations Often workflow diagrams in social are for the day-to-day situations, for crises, make sure it’s clear on who should be contacted and how Savvy companies will conduct social media crises fire drills in advance, see this post listing more details.
If then, scenarios (falls) Workflows will have multiple decision points which help to guide the teams on who does what.  Include “If then” statements that help individuals to self-guide.  Jason Falls recommends:  “When you’re building out triage and work flow it’s like building out the workflow for customer service call centers — you have to anticipate every scenario. What do we say for a product recall? What do we say if an executive is arrested?”
Ascertain Situation Most workflows have either the following triggers to determine the key decision: Sentiment, situation, or who is asking.  Each type of data has an advantage and disadvantage: Sentiment isn’t universally recognized, situations may not take into account tone and nuance, and identities can’t be confirmed.
Tag and Flag To allow for internal coordination, ensure that the process and workflow tools allow content to be tagged, flagged and conjoined to existing customer databases. Ensure systems work together by requesting social media management systems (SMMS) have on their roadmap the ability to connect with other contact center software, email marketing, or CRM.
Response Time Companies need to internally state how long service level agreement (SLA) will be for different workflow tracks. Be mindful about how you plan to share this externally, and if at all.  We’ve found some companies do not promise this, but instead recommend existing support channels.
First Responses Not all customers want their problems resolved, and may just want to vent.  Furthermore, some customers may feel the brand is too ‘big brother’ if they were not following or fans of the brand. Best practices I learned from Frank Eliason is to first show empathy, then ask if they want help: “I’m sorry to hear of your troubles, is there anything we can do to help?” rather than blurt out a fix that may be unwanted.
Engage in public or private channel Many of the regulated, sensitive account information such as airline and telecommunications will shift ‘off channel’ to other secured channels. Be up front in your online policies on how you plan to deal with information: be clear on what will be responded to –and will not be in public channels.
When not to respond Make it clear to all parties internally on what type of content will NOT be responded to –and suggest further activity that needs to happen internally. It’s important to balance proactive response, but also setting expectations on how far we will respond to customers and what appropriate channels are.
Integration with Software Tools In some cases, triage may all happen in social media management system tools (read the report for the full breakdown) but in today’s multi-channel world, they will extend. Whether it’s contact center software or social media management systems software they must align to the workflows that you build first –don’t allow tools to bend your process, instead focus on your goals first before selecting tools.
Followup Some brands fail to followup with customers after a break has been resolved, or after a customers has recently purchased a product.  Have a clear process to followup. It’s ok to ask customers who have had product woes fixed in social channels to update their posts, so others will see this person has had an issue resolved or not. Be savvy by first asking their satisfaction, then request them to followup.
Recording and Measuring Executives will be requesting clear ROI on your process and triage workflow, you’ll have to map frequency, intensity, and other KPIs. Map your interactions based on the business goals that were stated up front, whether they are for marketing, support, or coordination, ensure business level KPIs are included.

Key Industry Resources

The Future State of Workflows:
I interivewed two experts to find out their perspective on the future of workflows.

  • The Workflows Fade Into Background.   As employees adopt the workflow on a frequency basis, the organizational memory will guide the company.  Jason Falls indicated that “Hopefully they’ll (workflows) only look like reminders and guidelines. The worst possible use of a triage, workflow or process is one that is followed step-by-step, looking at the chart. These are guidelines that should be learned and baked into a community manager or marketing staff member’s job. After a while, you should just know what to do. Certainly, you can refer to the charts, graphs and references, but the strong triage processes in any businesses are those run by people who don’t read cue cards.”  Jason is right, the work process will soon take a life of it’s own, however the initial documentation and discipline to get the entire organizational on board will be key for corporate buy-in.
  • Traditional Contact Center Software will Battle/Integrate with SMMS Vendors.  Existing contact center software that already has roots with multi-channel experiences like Genesys, Rightnow, and Liveops already have social interactions and features.  On the flip side, Social Media Management System (SMMS) vendors are starting to evolve into paid advertising channels and may include automated chat bots beyond social, read the full report on the SMMS vendor landscape.  These two vendors types will have friction as they battle, and expect M&A over coming periods to occur as these vendors coalesce over the same customer types.  Watch Oracle, Salesforce, who are assembling their Social Software Suites.
  • Soon, Software Will Automate Responses.  I agree with the perspective of Jay Baer, who states that:  “I see the future of workflow and triage being predictive modeling, with routing based on artificial intelligence and enterprise knowledge mapping. If we know the specific areas of expertise of each employee and can store that in a relational database, and we can also know via presence detection who is online and/or what their historical response times have been, we can use Netbase-style NLP to proactively triage and assign social interactions to the best possible resource in the organization. Automated expertise mining.”.  I agree with this direction, and have published my thoughts on the future of social being Performance Social, both on Mashable and Techcrunch.Update, this automation topic triggered a discussion on Branch.

Summary: Don’t Under Estimate the Work Required to Create and Rolllout a Social Workflow.The end result of developing a simple Social Media Workflow doesn’t reflect the herculean effort of organizational navigating, buy-in, and change that may occur in developing the process.  Be sure to start with business goals, obtain a clear sponsor, and approach business units by asking –not telling– how they can get involved.  Ensure your existing processes, software, and customer experience is augmented, and not replaced by this process. While we’re going to lay the foundation out now in a manual manner, expect that future software systems to correctly anticipate these systems and automate based on data lead programs.

Thanks to time spent with Frank Eliason, David Armano, Jason Falls, and Jay Baer for their expertise, Jessica Groopman for pointing out examples, as well as multiple brand clients who have shared their workflow diagrams with me in client engagements. This breakdown is one small part of how I’m working with companies on their internal social readiness and social programs.

1:50am on the Social Software Dance Floor


It’s at the end of the night on the dance floor, do brands know where their social software providers are?  Like the end of a dance, social software vendors are understanding who they can partner with –or be confident on going it alone.

Once the lights go on in the next few quarters, the ecosystem will emerge in a new day, with brands stuck answering “Do I buy a suite?” or “Do I invest in integration?”. This post is intended to provide illumination on what’s happening behind the scenes –and who dance stars will be.

Matrix: Social Software and Services Scenarios

Above: Here are the options brands have when it comes to integration social software and services, the ideal scenario is upper right, but at this time, this promise is a lofty one.

I first alluded to this metaphor on an interview on Techcrunch, where we saw acquisitions occurring in spring of many of social vendors to create Social Software Suites (see the growing list).

  • Consolidation in a Fragmented Market a Sign of Maturity.  In prior posts, we’ve found over 100 vendors in community, brand monitoring, and the recent social media management vendor list is upwards of 40.  We saw an increase in M&A announcements in spring from Oracle, Salesforce, Google, esp as fall conference season picks up for these software giants.  Up and down highway 101 in Silicon Valley, there are business development meetings where there’s shopping, dating, flirting, and discussions around larger companies seeking to acquire more focused startups who’re seeking an exit.   Buyers and sellers are all speaking to multiple potential suitors to see who will be a good fit into their Social Software Suite.
  • Two Forces: Top Down Suites Offer it All vs Agile Point Provider Community.  The largest impacts will be to the buyers, who will have to re-establish their software integration strategy.  Will they go for the one-size-fits all vendor that offers all the needed use cases, or focus in on investing on a point provider that can deliver the best experience for the required job.  Each offers benefits and draw backs.  Vendors who offer the larger suite will tackle at the C-suite level and go down (longer deal sizes, larger scope, with potential larger pie) vs more agile point players that can quickly pivot, innovate, and partner with system integrators to get the job down.
  • New Innovation as Ecosystem Reforms, Services Come to Forefront.  For specific software innovators that plan to go-it-alone after the lights come on, they can still be very innovative by developing in the next phase of the social web “Performance Social” that focuses on analytics, data driven decision, and automation of these technologies. Furthermore, we continue to see new case studies emerge from social engagement command centers that bring together service and software players, to new mobile and augmented reality platforms spurred by Google.  Expect this to be a booming opportunity for system integrators and digital agencies to partner with both sides to craft experiences for brands.  The savvy system integrators and digital services providers will offer playbooks, methods, and teams that can integrate at all levels.

The good news is, there’s another dance the next night, as the market continues to grow and evolve –this is just a new session in the continued evolution of the social software space. In 2008 I hosted an event for software vendors (while at my former employer), social networks, and brands to discuss the future of the market, if you think it would be valuable for me to host again (including service providers), please let me know.

People on the Move in the Social Business Industry, Aug 25, 2012


Want a trail to growth and resources?  Find out who’s hiring…welcome to On the Move!

Both the submissions on this job announcement board, as well as available social media positions at corporations continue to pour in. In this continued digest of job changes, I like to salute those that continue to join the industry in roles focused on social media, see the archives, which I’ve been tracking since Q4, 2007.


People on the Move in the Social Business Industry:

  • Meaghan Edelstein goes Freelance as a Social Media Consultant, Content Creation, Event Production Social media marketing consulting, marketing, mobile marketing, event production, speaking, content creation, social team management.  Congrats to her, I’ve read her publications on Mashable and spoke at her events.
  • Chris Beland joins Converseon as SVP, Marketing Services Leading Strategy & Account Management, Creative, Search, and Media.
  • Marty Thompson joins DK New Media as Social Business Strategist where he will help clients plan, build, and measure around realistic social business strategies.
  • Debbie Curtis-Magley joins Ariba as Online Community Manager As Online Community Manager for Ariba, I lead social media strategy and online community engagement to evangelize the advantages of collaborative business commerce.
  • Wendy Soucie joins Parker Hannifin as Global eBusiness Social Media Manager, his role includes developing, monitoring and evaluating social media strategies across all businesses and markets that enhance Parker’s global digital strategy.
  • Steve Elmore joins 7Summits as Vice President of Social Business Strategy. Elmore will develop 7Summits’ industry-leading social business services with new concepts, trends and models to impact organizational collaboration and effectiveness.
  • Meg Sinclair joins Facebook as Communications Manager Meg will be in charge of communications strategies to support Facebook’s product, platform, monetization and policy efforts in Canada.
  • Rich Gascoyne joins EngageSciences as General Manager, Americas Rich is responsible for creating, executing and overseeing sales, marketing, servicing and partnership plans and strategies for the Americas business unit of EngageSciences, headquartered in the UK.  Great firm, congrats.

Submit a new hire:

Seeking a job?

  1. See the Web Strategy Job Board, which includes paid submissions from the top brands in the world.
  2. Social has a blog that lists out career resources
  3. Social Media Jobs Facebook Group
  4. Social Media Jobs by Chris Heuer
  5. Social Media jobs, filtered by SimplyHired
  6. Social Media Job Network by James Durbin
  7. 25 places to find social media jobs by Deb Ng

Additional Resources:

Please congratulate the new hires by leaving a comment below.

Breakdown of a Dedicated Social Media Engagement or Command Center


Rise of Social Commerce, an Altimeter ConferenceLeft: Dell’s Social Media Command and Listening Center, Austin Texas.

The purpose of this post is to be an industry reference for this social business use case, please leave comments with further additions.

Many a year ago, I worked at a web hosting company that had a Network Operations Center (NOC) that looked like NASA’s mission control.  Enclosed in a glass ‘fishbowl’ the 20-50 staff, systems, training, technology were all used in conjunction to support the network traffic of the customers websites, see Google images.  The “NOC” was externally packaged and marketed as a cutting edge feature of a top performance center, touted on customer tours at HQ, and had internal mystique and prestige of those who were there.

Today, we similar centers emerging at top brands, event managers, as well as offerings from a variety of marketing and customer service providers for social.  With India’s recent crises on social channels causing a shut down in websites, expect government bodies and agencies around the world to open these for daily interaction with citizens, and as well as dealing with high urgency situations.

Definition and Goals: A Dedicated Social Media Engagement Center or Command Center is a physical space where companies coordinate to listen and engage their market in social channels to achieve business use cases in marketing engagement, customer care, risk management, or operational efficiency of coordination and contact center deflection.
Starting with Strategy
First, understand that customer support and engagement has changed, we’ve found six changes to traditional customer care. Before we dive into tactics (There’s a matrix below to assist) let’s ensure we understand the greater context.  Companies must first realize this is a single tactic in a greater strategy of social business.  Often this program may stem from the Social Media Center of Excellence program, a cross-functional leadership team that oversees many programs.  David Armano also provides strategic guidance that this is more than fancy screens in a fishbowl, but people, process, and analytics are required for success.   Additionally, clear business goals need to be defined, with measurable KPIs laid out in front before initiating this program –shiny Twitter room won’t cut it.

Risks and Criticisms
Like all business programs, there are always tradeoffs, we’ve identified the following:

  1. Sexy deployment DuJour, could quickly go out of style.  Many companies have touted their centers, but if core business problems aren’t being solved, it will be viewed as sizzle and no steak.
  2. This public commitment to listening in social is a promise to customers you’re going to be there.  Set clear expectations on how goals and limitations, but know frustrated customers will expect you to respond
  3. It’s cheap, but is it really? Seemingly low cost, the long term resource needs must be offset by business benefits.
  4. These physical centers can be used to attract internal attention to the social media program, but will put additional scrutiny on business goals.  Questions on integration with other customer channels will be asked.
  5. Encourages customers to “yell at their friends to get your attention”.  Social is often a lower cost of communication than other channels, but encouraging customers to use social as first channel, basterdizes existing traditional channel investments, and may encourage customers to get best treatment from brand if they’re public.
  6. Companies deploy these one off tactics without a broader social business strategy across the enterprise.  This is just one toolset, and if all the processes aren’t fully deployed internally and the impact to customer experience, this could be ‘cart before horse’.

Breakdown: Dedicated Centers Have Many Variables
Variation Ranges What No One Tells You
Use Case Use cases can vary from marketing engagement, customer service, lead generation, internal coordination, compliance, risk mitigation, or product innovation. Be clear internally and externally on the goals of the program.Some social media vendors launch these centers to showcase their products.
Duration Companies vary their scope, some are only open periodically for critical events, while others are open 24/7/365 Be clear to the market on when response is available. Companies that desire full coverage but don’t need FTEs should outsource to qualified agency partners, or specialists like LiveWorld, emoderation, Cap Gemini and others
Sourcing Internal teams vs external teams. Internal teams range from marketing communicators, product managers, and contact center agents. Caution on charging junior staff with representing the brand online who don’t have full business acumen or PR agencies that don’t understand deep engagement nuances. Trained script based contact agents may have deep product knowledge, may struggle at the real time, personal interactions required on social channels.
Agent Scope We’re seeing agents at command centers that are focused on dedicated social channels only, that then hand off to other teams. Also, universal agents that understand nuances of all channels are also emerging.  This also spans product coverage as well as regions and languages. A multi-tier approach may be useful by pinning dedicated social agents first as first line interaction, then shifting to advanced agents in a triage process, one size does not fit all.
Locations Some companies are putting at HQ only, while at Dell, I was informed they have centers around the globe that ‘follow the sun’ for exposure Outsourcing these centers to third party agencies, service providers is increasing at a rapid pace, seek to outsource lower level functions but keep core brand engagement and storytelling near corporate.


Notable Brand Examples 

  1. Dell’s Social Media Command Center:  While first, and most discussed, there are many elements to this program that includes a centralized approach, while empowering business units to be autonomous, a form of advanced holistic form of social business.   I’ve visited this first hand and received information from Richard Binhammer before publishing this, others have published videos.
  2. Salesforce.  Jamie Kennedy toured me on the Radian6 and Salesforce Listening center which is strategically located near corporate marketing and PR, see video tour for details.  I visited.
  3. IBM has a physical social media listening center
  4. Nvidia has launched a center, including a welcoming messaging from team focused on how they’re listening.
  5. Pizzahut emailed me during a previous Superbowl to showcase how they’re listening to customers, providing customer care, and offering special deals to customers
  6. Clemson University has a social center, which has been documented.
  7. Sports Team Oregon live has a dedicated center in stadium center.
  8. Pepsi’s Gatorade has a dedicated center dedicated to listening and responding to all athletes in a form of brand marketing engagement, see video.
  9. Red Cross has a center powered by Dell, which can be used in crises and recurring engagement.
  10. Nissan is working with Definance on a centralized center, announcement here.
  11. The MLB All Star Game in Kansas City has a dedicated center, see Tumblr log.
  12. Superbowl had a dedicated command center.
  13. Tampa Bay and Company has established an initiative for political conventions.
  14. Intel has launched a “Social Cockpit” monitors the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), working with WCG.
  15. Delta Airlines has a Social Media Lab. (pic).
  16. KLM’s Corporate Communications and E-commerce departments joined forces to establish the Social Media Hub.
  17. Adobe has a center, which I’ve seen in the San Jose office.
  18. Samsung let me know they’ve a center setup  and seeing call deflection benefits.
  19. Cisco (Oct 24, 2012) has now launched a Social Media Listening Center using their own network, touch screens, SocialMiner software, and Radian6 technologies, and is offering to brands, as well as using themselves.
  20. Bottlenose created a live enterprise marketing dashboard with Fleishman Hillard.
  21. Symantec’s Social Media Command Center, case study
  22. Associated Wholesale Grocers Launches Customer Connect Center, a Social Media Listening and Engagement Hub
  23. MasterCard has launched their own center.
  24. MORE: I’ve kicked off a Quora thread where more examples are being surfaced by the community.


Matrix: Top Level Requirements Checklist

Requirements Example Resources
Goal Primary use cases include: Marketing engagement, customer care, misk identification and mitigation, listening and analysis, and in some cases proof of concept of a product Brands are already relying on service providers to help define goals, in particular Edelman’s David Armano provides a strategic perspective and WCG has aided Intel.
Leadership A clear champion internally has been identified to lead this effort. I’ve spent time with Richard Binhammer (follow him on Twitter) to learn his perspective, he serves as a model and forerunner with his Dell colleagues.
Process Daily workflow and triage as well as crises management plans A number of triage documents have already surfaced from early deployed Air Force blog triage to HR Block. Read report on Social Business Readiness and on Crises planning simulations.
Staffing Some companies, like Dell have dedicated teams that operate around the clock and globe Some companies are converting communication pros, community managers, contact center staff, or outsourcing to Liveworld, eModeration, Peoplebrowsr, and agencies like Weber Shandwick, Edelman, or BPO such as Cap Gemini partnered with Attensity
Integration Social cannot be a silo’d channel. Customer experience demands a multi-channel approach. Companies are integrating with call center and across other channels (chat, phone, email, sms, automated bots)
Software: Existing Some orgs are integrating these centers with existing databases, CRM systems, Compliance, and Contact Center Software. Salesforce, Genesys, Liveops, Actiance and others have briefed me on how traditional software now integrates with social channels.
Software: Listening Companies must actively use listening software to hear what customers are saying, both on social media channels they own (like Facebook pages) and outside on third party sites like forums, blogs and microblogs While Radian 6 came up as a frequently used tool, there are a variety of providers, most companies already have listening solutions in place.
Software: Engagement Unfortunatly, the social software suites have not fully formed and there is a third class of software required to manage permissions, process, reporting, and offer engagement tools. There are a number of Social Media Management System tools available, see report for vendor breakdown.  Liveworld, Awareness, Radian6, and Peoplebrowsr have marketed specific offerings for this use case.
Program Operations A large number of tasks need to occur including internal training, internal and external PR, logistics, dedicated commitment from executives, and funding. Like all programs, the devil is in the project plan details.  There are numerous legal, IT, HR, facilities and compliance considerations.
Logistical Resources The physical infrastrcture is often the least expensive, but includes dedicated internet bandwidth, work stations, computers, flat screen monitors, and often glass enclosed dedicated workspaces While not a requirement, we’ve found programs that put these centers in strategic locations benefittted from internal curisotiy of other departments, as well as positive PR from customer and influencer visits.
External Marketing Most command centers today have launched marketing efforts, blog posts, press releases, and other external pronouncements to inform the world the company is ready Rely on traditional marketing efforts, but also tap into customers who have been active in talking to the brand. In particular, Dell, Gatorade, and Pizzahut were early to market, gleaning press and media mentions.
Analysis and Reporting Savvy companies offer reporting and real time dashboards to glean insights Use existing marketing analytics tools, or business management tools to measure and report progress back to company.

Additional Resources, and Solution Providers. 

While this trend is starting to grow, it’s important to see the strategic point of view of this toolset, remember that:

  • Command Centers are tactics and should be part of a larger strategy.  Companies should not deploy these centers without first having a strategy on how social will be used in the context of their business strategy.  These centers can amplify, impact, and disrupt existing business functions and will impact cost, customer experience, and workflow.
  • Benefits of centralized resources are useful –but not every company will need one.  While having centralized resources to offload other teams, some advanced companies are already integrating listening and engagement to all areas of the company.  Having a physically dedicated center isn’t required for customer engagement on social.
  • Expect outside providers to offer solutions.  I expect that companies will have dedicated solutions around customer engagement in social, as well as nearly every government, sports team, and beyond.  But don’t expect every company to host themselves, outsourced options like call centers in emerging markets will emerge –with benefits and downsides.

I look forward to the continued discussion, please leave a comment below with additional thoughts, questions, or resources.  Thank you Todd Defren, Dana Oshiro, Aaron Strout, Laura Fitton, Richard Binhammer, Peter Friedman, Ekaterina Walter, for their insights, and Dell, Salesforce, Adobe, for letting me tour their facilities, and to all the agencies and software providers who have taken the time to brief me.




Fire Drills: Social Business Crises Simulation


Left: Altimeter’s Research found that social business maturity and crises preparedness are heavily correlated, and on average, most companies are not prepared.

Just as airlines, naval craft, and spacecraft prepare for disaster recovery and risk mitigation, today’s leading companies must do the same with social.

Altimeter has conducted research on this topic read report by Alan Webber on Guarding the Gates, and Social Readiness to obtain industry level insights and pragmatic recommendations, this is our continued coverage on this topic, especially after crises at Progressive this past week. One of my most popular research projects for brand side clients is conducting a readiness assessment of their social business. Using a 50+ checklist we spend time with stakeholders to find out exactly ‘how ready’ are companies for social business. Often, I find that companies do have triage plans in place for everyday workflow –but are woefully unprepared for crises.

We found in our research that companies that are advanced are actively conducting private fire drills for social media crises, both internally and working with third party agencies and software providers. While not an extensive list, feel free to leave a comment below if you’ve a simulation that can help brands not be caught off guard.

Weber Shandwick: Firebell Software and Services

We interviewed Weber for previous research reports to find out they have a dedicated practice to deal with Social Media Crises, which they list on their page. They created a private software tool that can be used by brands and agency partners to conduct a simulated crises even compressing a multi day attack into a few hours. I’ve met the community manager team at an offsite in SF last year and was pleased to see how they were planning and training this service line. Learn more from their PDF on Firebell solution.

Social Simulator: Software and Services

This multi-channel software tool from Social Simulator is a new entrant at 18mos old and being used by London’s Metropolitan Police to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, plus corporates from the oil & gas, defence, pharmaceuticals, luxury goods, retail and transportation sectors. They have a number of custom branded, hour-long scenarios in which they rehearse Terrorist attacks, Reports of malfunctioning prescription medication, and other severe situations like Piracy in the Indian Ocean or various other simulations for brand side clients. In terms of pricing, typical exercises come in at around $10,000 USD, including on-site support from my team and involvement in preparing a realistic crisis scenario. They are open to working with other agencies (for service providers seeking SW like Weber’s)

Say It Social: eLearning and Services

I used Twitter to source names of providers, and also heard from Say It Social, a small team who spans client based in CPG, Retail, Regulated and more.

Although they offer a broad range of services beyond crises, they offer Social Media crisis simulations through their elearning LMS with scoring, testing for enterprise, global teams. Their eLearning page indicates that they: “Use real-life simulation models to test employee social media knowledge & hone employee social media skills”. They also offer a number of auditing tools that look at risk and compliance.

In the end, companies must be prepared for crises as we’ve found the frequency is only increasing. Yet don’t focus on providers because of their software alone; seek providers that have a proven method based on analyzing previous crises, and have learnings both post event and ways to improve the process. I encourage clients to practice for a crises that starts on a Friday evening before a three day weekend when executives are not available, and a product or service has caused harm to a customer and it’s rapidly spreading through social media channels. Like all sophisticated companies, they’re ready for a number of crises and disaster recovery, and now it must extend to social channels.

If you know of a software or service provider focused on this topic, please leave a comment below.

Social Networks: Premium vs Freemium


Screenshot of shows a bare bones microblogging platform

So why does have an uphill battle to reach mass market? I’d argue that while niche premium social networks may emerge, however they’ll only serve a small market. The majority of the addressable mass market is already accustomed to advertising in other media channels, so being exposed to highly relevant ads in will be worth the . The other option, is to head the Wikipedia business model way, and depend on revenue injections from other parties, or raised funds on a donation based model as we see Jimmy Wales compelling ads requesting donations.

So why did I give my $50 commitment to despite the massive uphill challenges they’ll face? Well, for three reasons: 1) It’s my job as a research analyst to know the market which I cover 2) Selfishly, I wanted to secure my user name jowyang (just as I have on Twitter) and 3) I’m interested in seeing if crowd funding models can work –despite the concern over Kickstarter scams.

Matrix: Comparison of Premium vs Freemium Social Networks

Premium ( Freemium (Facebook, Twitter)
Business Model Users pay up front, in the case of, $50 for a year of service, site is funded by users Free tools available to any who agree to Terms of Service, such as Google+, Twitter, Facebook. Business model often includes marketing, advertising, donations.
Data Usage As paying customers, data is controlled and managed by users, developers, and owners. Users able to export data at any time via download feature. Terms of service often indicate the data can be used by social network and is owned by social network.
Governance Managed by website owners, not clear if customer council, app developers may have upfront info on API changes. Roadmap defined by social network, developers, brands, and users at mercy of changes, often without advance notice.
User Experience Advertising free experience, with focus on social and engagement features. Ad rich experience, including marketing and advertising directly in social stream. In the case of G+ it supports Search business model and remains ad free.
Market Type At this time, early adopters, first world technologists. May incline towards disposable income and influentials Mass market, global.

When it comes to social networks like Facebook and twitter, we should all remember that these are free global communication tools, and nothing comes without a price, including seeing marketed content. When it comes to new business models that are advertisement free, we should also remember, you either pay now, or pay later, to use these tools.

So users and developers of social networks (whether premium or freemium) should recognized you’ll pay now, or pay later, you always pay.

Update: Well that didn’t take long, here’s the parody site. There’s more discussion on my G+ feed on this.