Are Social Media Command Centers Worth the Investment?

Carefully consider the value of these high-visibility investments.

Gatorade and Dell created buzz in late 2010 when both brands opened the first widely publicized social media command centers. Gatorade Senior Marketing Director Carla Hassan said the company’s command center was a way to “take the largest sports brand in the world and turn it into the largest participatory brand in the world.” Other large brands, including Southwest Airlines and the American Red Cross, have followed by opening their own command centers.

In 2010, when Facebook had just 400 million users, as compared to 1.65 billion in 2016, the public relations value alone may have justified the investment. Fast forward to 2016, when there are 500 million tweets per day and CMOs are left to ask: Are command centers still a worthwhile investment of time, energy, attention and budget?

High visibility

Social marketing command centers are highly visible, centrally located hubs of social media monitoring and marketing activity. They may be owned or outsourced and may or may not be staffed cross-functionally.

“The high visibility of a command center carries reward and risk,” noted Jay Wilson, research director, Gartner for Marketers. Command centers will illuminate the effective, and not so effective, aspects of a social marketing strategy. Gartner clients report that social marketing expertise, processes and content often operate in isolation from an organization’s multichannel marketing strategy. A simple relocation of the social team into a command center, without a view toward supporting the entire marketing strategy and entire customer journey, will only shine a brighter light on this divide.

Social media command center
Analyst Jay Wilson discusses Gartner’s social media command center at the company’s headquarters in Stamford, CT.

Focus on fundamentals

A social media command center won’t change the social data available to the team — it merely provides richer, more real-time visualizations. That means that if you’re not collecting and distributing the right metrics, a command center won’t help. Focus on your critical metrics and measurement and ensure the metrics are being shared with the right people. Use this investigation to identify gaps in data collection and analysis and ensure that the data streams being focused on align with customer needs.

Consider the command center a cultural tool rather than a data and analytics investment. Bringing visibility to metrics and democratizing data may increase numeracy across your team, but it won’t singlehandedly increase your data-driven maturity. Focus on data and measurement strategy first and screens and visualizations second.

Read More: Ten Commandments for Social Command Centers

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Assess the opportunity

“Whether the investment in a command center pays off depends on your business needs,” noted Mr. Wilson. Four guidelines help determine whether a command center is right for your organization:

  1. Identify the use cases a social command center will bolster such as, crisis management, large investments in event-focused marketing campaigns like the Super Bowl or helping to deflect inquiries away from a call center.
  2. Talk with the team to determine if there is a desire for a command center environment.
  3. Make sure you can secure commitment from key teams, including content, public relations and data.
  4. Review whether a potentially large investment in the technology will fundamentally change your ability to deliver on key use cases versus improve existing capabilities, communication and virtual collaboration.

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