Archive for the ‘Breakdown’ Category

Breakdown: A Strategy for Engaging Passion Communities


Network MapLeft: A social network mapped out, this one is of influential photographer Kris Krug’s social graph.

These breakdown posts often contain content that didn’t fit into research reports, and contain input from industry experts or deeper client engagements, see other ‘breakdown‘ posts.

Unsure how to deal with the most passionate communities your market has to offer?  One of Altimeter’s large brand clients was struggling with this same question, a brand cannot simply waltz in without fully realizing the commitment being made and impact to brand relations.  Our client specifically wanted to know from myself and colleague Sr Researcher Christine Tran on the “best way to enter and exit a passion community”.  I interviewed Jenna Woodul from LiveWorld (software and services), Robb Meier from InternetBrands (they host/manage lifestyle communities and Stefania Pomponi B. from Clever Girls (manage a network of influencers) to get their take on this specific task.

A Passion Community Defined:  Is one that contains highly focused brand and lifestyle advocates often on a third-party (one which you have no control over) website that the brand does not manage. This is a high-intensity group, containing members that pose opportunities to engage with influencers, but also risks of brands being unable to manage in a scalable manner.  The most engaged members of these communities, we will refer to as Passionistas.

Passion Community Scenarios

Scenario Actions Impacts
Don’t Engage Passion Community Do nothing.  For some brands they choose not to engage these communities, but most often they are monitoring.  I know of one airline who was observing Flyertalk, but involved in the other, in order to find out how customers were “gaming” the system. While not engaging can mean less resource commitment, it does not mean less risk. By not engaging, brands may not have a foothold for product launches or dealing with crises that may arise.
Dive Head First Many a companies, and their agency partners, may dive headfirst into passion communities without first bothering to plan.  In most cases, companies have already deployed some resources or have an adhoc community manager involved. Rapid deployment, often without having to deal with legal or corp comm checking off every step, but the downside may be much greater as companies are unable to scale, deploy resources, or answer all the questions.
Approach with a Strategy Companies that step back, analyze the situation, the develop key relationships are examples of these scenarios.  This can include either a long term or short term engagement. While the chances or doing it right increase, the opportunity to do it fast, or even beat competitors to reach these groups.

Risks to Engaging a Passion Community
What are the risks of jumping into a passion community without a strategy?  We have identified at least four key risks:  1) May setup unrealistic expectations with passion customers who may now expect your commitment, 2) Disrupt your existing customer relations business processes for sales, support, or communications. 3) Trigger discussions around your product or company that you’re not prepared to discuss, 4) May disrupt the business model of the hosts of the third party site, who may be monetizing the support or service of your product line.

Case Example:  Top Tech Company Jump Head First –Then Backs Out
A few years ago, a top tech brand shared with me they involved their highly coveted engineers in a discussion at Digg (pre-Reddit era), only to be surprised and slightly overwhelmed by the amount of questions and discussions that no human nor one brand can respond to.  The tech community reacted so positively to see this blue chip involved that it created such a large set of questions that this brand had to reset expectations, and ensure there were enough resources to provide the right experience.

Key Principals of Passion Community Engagement

  1. Passion communities may outlast your brand. Often, communities have existed before your brand, and may also exist if your brand ceased to exist.  Robb Meier of InternetBrands shared that; “I think the biggest point you make, is that passion communities existed before the brand knew of them, and will very likely continue on, even if the brand doesn’t. Prime examples are the thousands of Vehicle model specific communities, based on cars no longer in production. Brands should recognize that passion communities have their own power source. Don’t attempt to become that source, instead, figure out a way to complement the existing energy grid”.  Remember, these communities can self-sustain –even without the brand.
  2. Passionistas may be a small group that don’t reflect your larger customer base.  It’s key to remember that these passion members may not reflect the greater market, and brands should understand their place in the ecosystem.  Robb shares that; “One other side point, is that in a typical passion community, the vast majority of the discussion comes from a small percentage of the participants, usually less than 10%. If a brand can engage community members from that group, they can potentially realize far more benefit, than by trying to engage the community as a whole.”
  3. You’re a guest in their house –even if the community is about your brand.  These communities often are self-maintaining without brands around, Jenna Woodul from LiveWorld shares that; “Pasionistas have a very proprietary feeling about their community; it’s their space. Until you’ve been around long enough that you really become a accepted member, comport yourself as a guest. If you don’t plan to stay and become a member, consider arranging with the moderator to go in on a promoted forum event basis.”
  4. Expectations on brand involvement may have already been set by them. Passionistas may already expect brand to participate, and may be upset if you haven’t already.  Once you enter a community as a brand representative, the community may expect you to stay and participate.  Robb shares a couple of points; “Passionista’s may be upset when the brand comes to discuss, especially if the brand rep can’t provide an in-depth enough amount of information.”
  5. Third party business models may create a unique dynamic. Third party web hosts (forums, communities, user groups) may have a business model around the community that may stem from ads, education, cross-selling services, sponsorships, or lead generation activities.  They make work with your competitors, or offer their own complimentary product or service.

Three Stages for Engaging Passion Communities
Stage 1: Preparing: with the Ears and Eyes
  1. First, deploy a listening station.  Don’t jump in without first knowing your community, take the advice from Jenna at LiveWorld that: “Assuming the forum is publicly accessible, have an internal team or outsourced agency listen and report on both issues and culture before you go in to a Pasionista community. What are forum members saying about your brand already, and what is the prevailing sentiment behind it? Listen for the community culture — how people interact, the tone they use with one another, how they treat new people, the role of the forum moderator, the leaders/influencers.
  2. Conduct analysis of topics and cultural nuances.  Listening alone is not sufficient, companies must make it actionable by analyzing the tone, frequency, and who the key leaders are. Robb from InternetBrands writes: “The nature of text based communication is such, that careful attention must be paid, as each community has grown around different conventions. Words may carry entirely different meanings between two similar, but separate communities. Making a communications gaffe in text, can have consequences that are far reaching.”
  3. Identify the Influencers, specific tactics may be required. Find out who’s really running the show, Jenna suggests: “During the listening prep phase, identify the squeakiest wheels and, if possible, plan how you might give them some ownership in your brand-relevant message (e.g., providing them with materials and/or answers). That helps to affect the tone they communicate to others”
  4. Then make the decision to engage –but have clear goals up.  Brands must have clearly defined goals in place, priorities and success metrics, and the proper resources setup with commitment from the orginzation on how and who will interact.  Be able to articular these goals both internally, as well as externally, in the next phase.  As discussed above, a decision may be made to not engage, and that may be a sensible decision rather than brand risk.

Stage 2: Build Rapport with Community Leaders

  1. Build a relationship with community owners or moderators.  Recall the prior principals, some website owners may be threatened by the presence of a brand as it can offset community management, or even revenue capabilities. Jenna from LiveWorld suggests that brands should:  “Create a relationship with the moderator or owner of the page. Explain what you are planning to do and get their input”.  I’ve observed situations where community owners discourage links to other competitor communities –even those owned by the brand –as it disrupts traffic and monetization options.
  2. Be accessible to community leaders and influencers..  Offer a direct line of access to the key influencers or website owners, they’ll appreciate the special access, and your willingness to do business on their terms.  Jenna from LiveWorld suggests you make yourself very accessible to the community managers; “Make sure that the moderators have your direct contact information so that if they get complaints when you go in, they’ll need to engage you when it happens. If they can’t get you, you lose the chance to give your side of a story or offer a possible solution.”
  3. Engage the community –but with clear goals outlined. Once you’ve built a set of agreements with the website owner, be prepared to enter the community, but be clear on goals.  In some cases request that the website owner introduce you to the community or even key influencers in private before meeting the masses.  When entering, beyond the civil pleasantries, be clear on your role, will you listen? respond? support customers?  Will you source ideas?  If you’re not going to support products or answer questions be clear on where you plan to do it.  Lastly, be clear on what topics are off-limits, and the best way is to indicate where you want to focus the discussion –not list a bunch of limits.
Stage 3: Engaging when you’re a Guest –Mind your Manners
  1. Deploy best practices as you engage with community. Now that you’re engaging with the community, a few tactics we learned: Go in as a person –not a logo.  Logo’s don’t have mouths (unless you’re selling orthodontics and that’s still weird). Consider creating a dedicated thread to consolidate conversations on one topic that can be answered there, esp around support, so if you need to be focused on lifestyle and marketing discussions, areas of focus can be maintained.  Jenna from LiveWorld suggests brands should have a measured approach: “Begin your engagement with responses, versus starting topics. Once you get past the listen and learn part, start commenting and adding value to the discussions happening in the community — not as an authority; just as a participant. By responding to other people’s topics, you are engaged in what they value vs the topics you select. Once you are an active part of a community, then begin to start discussions.”
  2. To scale, work with outsourced agencies –but only if your brand can digest this.  The concept of outsourcing community outreach to PR, or specialized groups is an often debated ones.  The upside is scale and community expertise, but the downside is lack of control, and potential inability to discuss deeper topics that only brand management teams may know.  Savvy companies know that not all services should be outsourced and will apply the right mix, see this matrix on community management outsourcing to learn more.
  3. Exist as graciously as you entered.  For some brands, entering a community is a short term engagement, depending on company goals, community needs, and resource allocation.  It’s key that brands exit as gracefully as they entered by: being clear with community owners that their time will taper off,  then letting community members know where the brand can be found.

Related Resources

Pragmatic Recommendations: Key First Steps
We’ve found that to be successful, companies need the following two pieces in place before moving forward:
  1. Prepare your orginization for the politics ahead of time.  Companies that are very bureaucratic will struggle to quick questions posed by passionistas.  Companies must deploy education, and risk mitigation plans, in advance, in order to prepare the company for the real time discussion that will occur.  Make it clear on what your company will talk about –and not talk about.   Stefania Pomponi Butler from Clever Girls expressed that:  “only to take days and weeks to reply to direct questions with awkward, formal corporate statements that need to be run through 27 levels of approvals. At that point, it’s probably better for the brand to be completely uninvolved.” I agree.
  2. Obtain resources to engage at levels the community will require.   This isn’t a press release, these are real world relationships that just happen to be on online channels, and you must treat them as such.  Stefania from Clever Girls reminds companies must be prepared: “Not only in terms of budget & time allocated to involvement, but in terms of really thinking through staffing. Meaning, “Who is going to be the brand rep. and how much authority will s/he have to respond and engage in a useful way?”.  I agree with Stephania, that not only do dedicated resources need to be in place, but working with outside providers and agencies can help leverage off hours and campaigns that require intense engagement over a short time.
  3. There are some passion communities that you should not engage in at all –just avoid.  If a community doesn’t want you there, it may be best to avoid completely, or deal with friendly individuals on other channels.  Jenna from LiveWorld reminded that anti-brand communities or even competitor communities should just have an ‘ears-only’ strategy of listening –no engaging.  This stance of listening in, and knowing key times to go in to correct ill-facts, or respond to specific questions may be appropriate, but caution is required.

In closing, this is a brief breakdown of engaging with passion communities, but kindly leave a comment if you’ve further resources, recommendations, or expereiences.

Breakdown: Corporate Social Media Team


The purpose of this post is to be a living document and industry reference on the topic of social media teams, as part as my ongoing coverage of corporate social media programs.  This perspective stems from industry research and deeper client engagements, see other ‘breakdown‘ posts.

Business Needs:
By definition, social business requires transformation within a company, resulting in leadership, program management, and a team to see this change through.  In most cases, we see this team as a centralized resource that’s often cross-functional working closely with a number of corporate functions as well as business units ranging from product teams, geographies, the field, and departments.  Without this team, the company will struggle to scale as different business units launch their own programs in a uncoordinated manner resulting in a fragmented customer experience, replication of duties, slow response in a coordinated manner, and a variety of tools, agencies, and vendors intersecting into the company.

Definition: The Corporate Social Media team is business program lead by a corporate social strategist that achieves business goals using social tools by coordinating with multiple business units across the enterprise.

Starting with Strategy
Before rolling out any team or putting job descriptions on the careers page, the leadership team and executive sponsors must ensure the right mindset and systematic rollout are in place.  We find that many companies who are successful follow the following traits:

  • Align with Corporate Goals –Not Social Media Goals. Don’t start with the aim of fans and followers instead first, have a business purpose that aligns with goals executives have already set, strategists should already know these, and then meld this new medium to these.  Next, evaluate current skillset and resources including obtaining resources from existing teams. I typically see companies developing a business case, with a request for resources and executive blessing from a charter.
  • Systematically Roll Out Program use Hierarchy of Needs.  Companies who run and deploy blogs/communities/FB pages are at risk by not first getting ready.  We found that advanced companies have deployed internal readiness such as governance, education, policies, process, and a roll-out program in a pragmatic method –not jumped to implementation.  Read the Social Readiness report to learn more.
  • To Scale, Let Go; Empower Business Units.  Companies who reach a level of maturity often allow trusted and trained business units to implement their own social programs after aligning to the program charter of the social media team.  This state allows business units to manage and deploy their program –encouraging scale and customization and speed at local levels.

Detailed Anatomy of Team
Altimeter found in a former survey of 144 global national corporations (read the full report) that the average composition of an enterprise class (over 1000 employees) company’s full time social media team is 11 professionals, often cross-functional. This research includes dozens of interviews and close interaction with Altimeter brand side clients who are leading these programs on a daily basis.

Screen shot 2011-12-22 at 8.11.57 AM

Matrix:  Breakdown of the Corporate Social Strategist Team

Note that in smaller teams, individuals may cover multiple roles, and in most cases these are cross-functional teams, as community managers may often come from product marketing, customer support, or corporate communications.

Role Primary Duty What No One Tells You
Social Strategist Leader and program manager,The program leader for social business, the strategist is responsible for overall vision and accountability towards investments.  We’ve done a detailed study on the career path of the social strategist including demographics, psychographics, business goals and challenges. Don’t hire an evangelist if they don’t have program manager chops. This individual must run a business program, and able to measure against real business results like: leads, sentiment, csat, customer support, and reduced costs.
Community Managers Primarily outbound and customer-facing, this role is a trusted member of the community, serving as a liaison between the community and the brand. These are often the most under-appreciated professionals in the team as they deal with customer woes time off hours and some even suffer personally as they deal with customer angst. Hire community managers that are balance brand enthusiasm with passion for customers –these are not PR pros that are on party message, but instead are trusted members of the community. Read the four tenants of the community manager to learn more. Celebrate these roles on Community Manager Appreciation Day.
Business Unit Liason These internal facing members have a primary duty of reaching out to business units to get them to collaborate, get on board and often join a center of excellence. They may also represent a particular business unit, department, product line, or region. These are key conduits to maintaining relationships with many business teams, and are key for achieving enterprise coordination in scale. As an interface inside of larger corporations, this role serves as an internal conduit to 1.5 coordinate efforts with other business units, in order to provide them with resources, as well as ensure consistency. Yet don’t let them talk to business units unarmed, they should have a checklist of requirements and slot in education manager to obtain consistency.
Education Manager This often part-time role is designed to serve multiple business units and rank-and- .5 file employees in planning and organizing social media education, including best Manager! practices, policies, and resources Seek an individual that knows both social technologies but is patient to teach executives, business program managers, the team and rank and file.  Encourage them to work closely with existing education programs.
Social Media Manager This professional will have several projects with fixed stop dates to manage and ongoing programs.  This may include launching programs, managing campaigns, dealing with agencies, and keeping teams on timelines.  They may work in corporate or with business units. This individual is the engine of the team that keeps time, resources, and expectations aligned.  Beyond finding social media expertise, look for project managers that have a background in operations or may be project managed certified.
Social Analyst Using brand monitoring, social analytics, web analytics, and traditional marketing 1 tools, the social analyst is responsible for measurement and reporting across the entire program and for individual business units This individual should be able to see the big picture of the forest and ascertain how social is impacting the customer experience and business beyond minute details.
Web Developer The web developer typically already exists at the company, yet provides dedicated assistance to help plan, brand, configure, and integrate social technologies as stand- alone efforts, or into existing systems Work with a developer that is capable of connecting disparate social technologies with existing enterprise systems.  As social software suites become dominant, the need for data integration will become a strategic asset for corporations.
Content Strategist (new role) This individual will coordinate content strategies across the enterprise, customers, and partners, spanning both advertising, corporate content and social media content. Ensure this person is well read on Altimeter colleague Rebecca Lieb’s book on Content Marketing, and research report on same topic.
Digital Strategist This role already existing in many corporations and will closely work with team to integrate social into all digital channels, both online, on TV, in real world and beyond. Ensure this role knows that social can be a different medium and may require longer term efforts, dealing with negative content, and a rapid response team.
Agency Partners Most companies rely on third party experts, both digital agencies and specialized social media agency of records.  These teams can provide services for education, strategy, creative, content management, community management, analytics and beyond. Over the coming period, expect that the social media agency of record (SMaoR) will start to vaporize as digital agencies offer similar offerings, acquire them, or social agencies offer ads.

Common Team Characteristics by Maturity

Not all teams are equal, and we’ve measured the sophistication of teams by maturation which is dependent upon culture, resources, duration, and team skills to navigate. While it’s difficult to put a team in a direct specific column, the following trends are common across the following maturation phases.

 Maturity Novice Intermediate Mature
Summary Description Evangelism, Education, Catalzying Change Program Formation, Coalescing, Coordination as a Central Resource Empowerment of business units to succeed within established guidelines
Primary Focus Areas Proving business case, wrangling business units, scrapping for resources Managing interest from business units that may be out of control, or getting the entire org coordinate and on board. Still proving business case to executives and business units that are threatended Company is on board, consistently, yet primary focus is integrating into existing business systems and optomization
Common Resources Often a small scrappy team (3) of just a few folks, this team has a small budget and humble set of resources that likely include brand monitoring, social media management tools and online communities. Typically, we see a larger increase of internal team size (8) there are more resources being applied to this program. At this phase, most companies launch centralized resources (often called a Center of Excellence) to serve the corporation. Often a larger team size that we’ve seen grow beyond 20 folks in an FTE capacity this dedicated team is cross-functional, yet has consolidated leadership from a core function across the enterprise.
How to Drive Business Case When pitching to executives, focus on three data points: 1) Social is a trend, not a fad 2) Our customers are using it (show data and anecdotes, 3) These are trusted conversations (show Edelman data) and we’re not actively involved. Focus on risk of social media proliferation and social crises from risk of lack of coordination. Show cost benefit analysis of not conjoining a single program Ensure programs are aligned with business objectives that executives are setting, if it’s market size increase, more leads, or better customer satisfcation, integrate into these existing programs.

Prior Research and Web Strategy Resources
This has been my core research coverage over last few years, here’s some of my prior reports and resources, that span career paths, team orgs, tools, industry hires, and list of team leaders.

Select Industry Resources
I read as much as I could that was already published online, here’s a few select resources for further insights.

Future of Social Media Teams
In closing, these teams are dedicated units that are serving the corporation in a cross-functional manner. In time, they will give up much of the deployment in exchange for allowing business units to scale. Expect that these teams evolve or become subsumed into content strategy teams, digital marketing, or customer experience teams that span multiple channels and mediums, as they are already not limited to social channels.

Breakdown: Converged Media Workflow (Coordinating Paid + Owned + Earned)


The purpose of this post is to serve as an industry reference for converged media workflows: How companies will coordinate paid, owned and earned as one orchestration.  This is continued coverage on Converged Media, read the full report.

Business Needs
Customers already experience advertising, corporate content, editorial, and social media at the same time, often in an integrated manner, although most brands do not approach the experience in one deployment. As Facebook, Twitter deploy social ads that utilize earned and owned content amplified by paid, these worlds are quickly merging. Brands that want to achieve the best experience for their customers in digital channels must approach in an integrated converged method, and understand how to utilize each channel’s strength. Brands that don’t have these workflows are at risk for inefficiency, and give agencies an opportunity to lead. Brands that produce these workflows working with agency and software partners can deliver an orchestrated experience.

Converged Media Workflows Represent Complexity in a Simple Graphic
This is continuing coverage of research I’m conducting with Rebecca Lieb (Bio, Blog, Twitter, Books), my co-author on this report as well as Jessica Groopman (Bio, Twitter), researcher. I recommend you first read the whole report on Converged Media (Paid, Owned, and Earned), in which we didn’t go into depth into the workflow that we found.  As the industry starts to combine these often disparate channels, we’ll see new forms of workflows emerge that coordinate all these channels.  Don’t be fooled by these simple diagrams, as each step transcends a different channel, intense coordination is required on brand side, agency side, as well as software.  A new ecosystem of players will also converge in order to serve this new workflow, and professionals that run to meet this future need now will be ahead in their careers over those that do not.

Definition: A Converged Media Workflow is a simple yet comprehensive diagram that represent complex streams that coordinate paid, owned, and earned channels in a holistic manner across an entire customer experience –beyond a siloed approach. As a result, the entire customer experience has a greater net benefit to customers and brands than individual deployments.

Start with Strategy
Companies should not approach the Converged Media approach without first having a goal in mind, as there are significant changes that happen both internally, with agency partners, and new software requirements.  To get the most return in your effort, start by:

  • Have a Content Strategy that Works Across Paid, Owned, and Earned.  Re-purposing the same content on each channel is not s recipe for success, as each provides a unique opportunity, challenge, and therefore approach.  Instead, develop a broader Content Strategy by first understanding that all companies (even those selling widgets) are now media companies.  Secondly, develop a strategy by understanding how to rebalance your marketing equation by developing a content strategy.  Read Rebecca’s blog with many resources on this topic, or the specific report on Content Marketing to further understand this growing trend.  New roles, content coordination, and the ability to track all of these content changes across the enterprise will emerge, as well as new professional opportunities for those that are seeking to grow.
  • Expect Savvy Marketers to have Playbooks –Supplemented by Agency Partners.  Don’t expect to brands to recreate a new workflow each time from scratch, we’ve started to collect some of the workflows below, and expect that many agencies and brands will develop playbooks and bring them forth in the planning stage.  Don’t overly rely on the same play, as competitors may  exploit the same play time and time again, so expect flexibility based on what the data tea leaves are reading.  When selecting a converged media workflow, ensure that it spans both paid, owned and earned channels, but also looks at media sites, social networks, microsites, brand sites and hosted communities.  Ensure these are also representing a global perspective, and consider how it can impact multiple product sets within the brand.
  • Be Ready: Significant Industry Changes Ahead in Brand, Agency and Software.  While the research report goes into greater depth on the predicted changes coming, we see a few significant changes to the entire ecosystem.  Inside of brands, the marketing department will start to restructure outside of silos so that the advertising group, corporate communication, brand marketing, and social media teams start to work together on a more frequent basis.  Then, we expect marketing leadership to demand that agency partners come together to look at converged media from one strategic viewpoint –digital agencies that lead this discussion will be in a position of power over those that do not.  Lastly, new software solutions are starting manifest including from Adobe Digital Marketing, Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Oracle Marketing, Bazaarvoice, Lithium, ThisMoment, IBM, ExactTarget, and a host others of suites that I’m tracking.  Expect a network of software point players to assemble and connect to each other –in order to counter the suites.

Altimeter’s Research Found a Workflow Pattern
There are many workflows –this is just the most common one, although we know many more will emerge.  Altimeter conducted research with 34 ecosystem contributors and continue to take briefings and share this workflow with others.  Depending on who you speak with, you’ll find different emphasize on different parts of the workflow.

Converged Media Workflow
Above: Altimeter found a workflow pattern based on 34 interviews, while we heard a variation on workflow patterns, this one was common, read the full report to learn more.

Matrix: Breakdown of One Converged Media Workflow

Phase What You Need What No One Tells You
Real-Time Measurement & Iteration (Center item) This is a baseline requirement across all phases.  This internal center effort is apart from periodic reporting, as it should be gauging in real time the performance of all paid, owned, and earned channels and allow for rapid iteration.   Don’t expect this team to be able to see the forest through the trees as they peer in closely, so ensure the periodic reporting phase is included –you need both. Real time measurements require a sane way to communicate these changes to the company, by providing daily wrap ups, trend diagrams, and maybe even real time tickers.  Barry Judge, former CMO of Best Buy told me he has a digital ticker in his office with all mentions of his company so he can make iterative changes in real time.
Periodic Strategic Analysis and Reporting (Top) If your effort is kicking off, start by conducting analysis of what’s happened in earned, and owned channels. We often heard from interviews that earned tells you what target market is saying or where they are, which informs owned.  However in most cases, launches were built off existing products so analysis on owned was common.  This analysis should be conducted looking back several periods (months to years). In addition to seeing what your customers say, analyze what’s being said of competitors and what they’ve said.  Find out what’s resonated and what has not and why. Follow colleague Susan Etlinger to learn more.
Content Strategy (Clockwise) Often companies jump to decide what they say, without analyzing what people want to hear, and that’s why the prior phase on analysis and reporting was a requirement.  Companies can now develop a content strategy, but should understand how it changes and varies depending on the following variables:  product type, geography, channel, screen, and source of information.  Note that this spans many internal teams from corp comm, brand marketing, media buying, social media team and all related agency partners. To try to focus on a consolidated content strategy across all of the permutations (we call this the Dynamic Customer Journey) get focused on the top persona behaviors in each of the three channels and top screens. Get focused.
Publication Across Channels This phase requires both internal governance on message and engagement orchestration that includes communication, internal collaboration, a series of meetings, a clear leader and the tools to support.  We’re currently seeing a variety of tools from CMS, media network management, and social media management system (SMMS) technologies span this environment. Agency and brand stakeholders are seeking collaboration tools that will span all teams, in particular, watch how PBworks and Adobe Creative Cloud develop to serve these real time needs.
Engagement Real time measurement and iteration (center item) should be occurring as a baseline, as a result, post-publication, teams will identify hot paths and hot conversations where content is resonating.  Then, teams should invest in sending in content experts, community managers, product leads, executives, or influencers to trigger further discussion. Don’t limit engagement to only when a hot discussion is occurring, but set a baseline in monitoring and engagement.  Consider how many brands are already deploying Command Centers (focused on social now, but quickly going broader)
Amplification New media units have been on the rise from Facebook and Twitter in the form of social ads.  These units often can be promoted based upon resonating with earned or owned content in social networks.  Double and triple down on content that’s resonating to reach a broader audience, or tap into the social graph by allowing those involved to share with their networks. Social ads are not limited to social networks alone.  Bazaarvoice has already launched social ads “media” product that aggregates ratings and reviews into IAB approved units.  Expect new media networks to emerge that support social content.
Restructuring Nothing is static in this real time world –even your umbrella messaging and tag lines.  Understand that messaging must evolve and change in real time to meet needs the changes of the market.  Savvy marketers will know when to bend, by involving customers into these process –and know when to stay on overall message to lead market to a new stance in positioning. New tools will emerge that allow customers/end users to help collaborate in creating future messages and integrating across all channels.  Watch Adobe, Salesforce, Oracle for tools that can enable this at the enterprise level.
Cycle Repeats The workflow is a circle and in this workflow, the cycle should continue repeat, fueling consistent and constant content across coordinated channels. What we don’t know is how often this cycle will repeat, as there isn’t industry data on how fast this process can occur.

Notable Industry Converged Workflows
Altimeter has obtained a few of these workflows through online search, slideshare, as well as received content from contributors. I’ll continue to add notable examples as I see them overtime, please leave comments below.

Engagement around media
Above: Edelman’s David Armano shows a workflow between Paid Owned Earned
Analyst Note: This early diagram quickly delineates a workflow among channels focusing on strength of each

Screen shot 2012-09-02 at 3.34.35 PM
Social Marketing and Engagement, Slideshare
by David J Carr (twitter, blog), Digital Strategy Director, Chemistry Communications
Analyst Note: The integration of social listening, social engagement, email, website and communities

Screen shot 2012-09-02 at 3.42.25 PM
Social Marketing and Engagement, Slideshare

by David J Carr (twitter, blog), Digital Strategy Director, Chemistry Communications
Analyst Note: The integration between multiple channels both from awareness push to engagement and across screens

Related Resources on Converged Media Workflows
I sifted through many online resources, found a few select pieces here, leave comments below, I’ll add to this over time.

Today, most workflows are limited to individual channel deployment and lack a holistic view of the entire customer experience. We found few public workflows in our quest, but see more emerging in briefings with software marketing companies and agency leads. Expect that a playbook will emerge from lead agencies and digital marketing suites that outline how all these channels and efforts work in a consolidated way. New opportunities for the emergence of a new market, professionals, strategists, and software and agency partners will emerge, and those that lead will have more opportunity to shape the conversation over those that follow.

I look forward to the dialog as this space evolves, please leave a comment with your point of view, or URLs to related Converged Media workflows.

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.

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.




Program Plan: The Social Media Center of Excellence


Definition: “Center of Excellence”
This is a program deployed by companies trending in the advanced levels of social business maturity. The Social Media Center of Excellence (CoE) is a centralized program that provides resources, training, and strategy to a variety of business units that are deploying social media in order to reduce costs, increase efficiency, and provide standardization. This team is often run by the Corporate Social Strategist, who’s the business stakeholder and program champion. To learn more, read the full research report on this role, and a list of these budding professionals.

Common Requirements for the Social Media "Center of Excellence"
The Social Media Center of Excellence has Four Major Duties: Planning, Resources, Processes and Vendor Selection and Management

Data: Companies Desire To Organize Social Media
Adoption by corporations only continues to rise. Business units can deploy their own efforts without the permission of corporate, whether they are ready or not.

Read more about budgets and headcounts in Altimeter’s report “How to spend on social business based on maturity”

Business Case for a Center Of Excellence
Corporations realize that social business is a horizontal function spanning all departments from: marketing, support, product, and supply chain, and must develop a centralized resource to serve the corporation, these programs provide the following benefits:

  • Provide Customers With a Consistent Social Experience. Business units can either be coordinated in their efforts, or fragmented and decentralized, without a common program in place each business unit will develop their own programs resulting in wasted resources and a fragmented experience to customers.
  • Obtain Efficiency Throughout the Organization. The cost will only increase as more business units develop social efforts on their own without proper “guardrails.” Secondly, this increases time-to-market by enabling various business units to communicate with each other.
  • Foster Accountability Across Business Units. Corporations are saddled with hundreds of social assets which it is having difficulty tracking, let alone the risk of a single vendor selling multiple instances to various business units. This central group helps to sunset abandoned efforts and increase success of those in motion.
  • Coordination Among Business Units. Companies needs processes and policies to handle negative situations and mitigate potential PR crises in social. This centralized group can quickly work with various arms of the company in a coordinated way to reduce risk, and increase responses to PR urgencies.

Case Examples
Corporations who are advanced at social business are likely to have a social media group in a centralized location that serves the rest of the corporation. The common name for this team is called Social Media “Center of Excellence” although there are quite a few variations of the theme. No surprise a majority of the examples we’ve found emerge from the first-to-adopt industry the technology space, here’s a few of note:

  • Intel has one of the first groups to adorn the term Center of Excellence lead by Becky Brown, and serves as a dedicated team to a cross functional stakeholder group even within various Geos. They’ve trained thousands of employees through their program Digital IQ (available on the intranet), and keep teams up to date through an internal newsletter called “The Buzz”
  • Adobe has launched a Center of Excellence in late 2009 by Maria Poveromo that adopted the Hub and Spoke model and includes cross-functional “social council” for cross functional sharing and support. This program provides governance, policies and guidelines, training, measurement support, and best practices including “guardrails”
  • Dell has the Social Media and Communities (SMaC) team lead by Manish Mehta, that has one of the most advanced groups that has a physical listening station called the Social Media Command Center, and has a team responsible for global training, services, and software.
  • Ebay has created a Center of Excellence that provides resources to both business functions like HR, Strategy, Platform, and Corporate Communicaitons, and also to geos and product units. They provide social strategy, alignment of roadmaps and plans, and analytics. They keep teams current through monthly social media council meetings. See this slideshare to learn more.

Matrix: Separation of Duties and Responsibilities:

Center of Excellence “Hub”
Business Units “Spokes”

This centralized group, often a corporate function provides services to business units for standardization, enablement and more.

Spokes are business units that deploy social media on their own, once they’ve been properly trained and provided resources from the central team
Often located in: The “Center of Excellence” is often located inside of the social media hub, which can also contain executive support. In some cases, the terms “Hub” and “CoE’ are interchangeable The Business Units are often located in the “spokes” that can include product groups, business departments, and even regional groups. For example, SAP and Intel have social media leads in EMEA for those specific markets.
Primary Duties: Set guidelines, policies and processes, and hold Spokes accountable. Provide and facilitate learning, education, and research in real time, reducing risk. May own listening tools, and distribute best practices. Report and coordinate with dotted line spokes, e.g. Executives, HR/Associates, Legal Deploy social media efforts on their own, within established guidelines. Report and coordinate with Spoke on strategy, deployment, and measurements. Share best practices and learning to CoE and other business units
Limited to: In the advanced corporations should be come an enabler to spokes –as they cannot manage all efforts.
Should allow for regional and product level customization for programs
Should not repeat efforts created by CoE, and work with centralized group for common measurements, process, vendors.

Corporations Must Develop a Center of Excellence:
Follow These Three Steps to get your program started:

  • First, start with anointing your open leader, the Corporate Social Strategist as the leader for this program. Learn more about this role in our research reports.
  • Secondly, obtain an executive sponsor that will champion, defend, and fund this program as you build our your business case. Use principles from Open Leadership to help them maintain command when they give up control.
  • Then, roll out the program in the following order to arrive in a Hub and Spoke model: Governance, Process, then an Education program.

Social Readiness Roadmap
Above: Altimeter offers the Social Readiness Roadmap which gets corporations prepared for social business internally by evaluating over 45 criteria. It provides a clear program plan to get ready, as well as recommendations for budgets, org models, headcount, ROI models, based on industry benchmark data.