10 Tips For Social Media Command Centers
You and your company have decided to invest in a command center, and there is a lot of excitement but what are the kind of things you should plan for? I have discovered down the years that there is no “command center management manuals”. Experimentation and learning what failed and what went well is how I learnt. There are many advantages from viewing real time data like observing when posts have the maximum effect.
I first started in the year 2000 with a very basic visual information system. It was for my company Philips lighting UK then based in Croydon and used cathode ray type television monitors located on the office floors and lift lobbies. They were were connected via cat 5 cables to an Intranet server that served special pages I created for those monitors. I learnt a lot from that set up about the kinds of information people liked to see what they did not.
1. Decide First On The Type Of Command Center.
Walk-by command centers do not have a permanent team of people located in front of them looking at it 24/7.
Workstation/console based command centers have dedicated seating and tables with multiple screens located throughout. It is also possible to have online command centers which can be accessed from any location. One of my favorite examples of the online type are the election command centers from Hootsuite.
It is important to make a decision about what type of command center that you intend to have based on your own requirements. Budgets, resources, and location of key stakeholders that need to view it are just some of the criteria to factor in.
2. Assess Your Viewing Distance.
It is important to make an assessment about the the viewing distance for the primary and secondary users of the command center location. The images and especially the text size and contrast will need to be suitable for people who are going to be located close by the command center screens compared to people viewing from distance or those regularly walking past that you want to attract.
Here is some advice from Extron Electronics about the human factors involved including viewing distance.
3. Select Your Data Sources.
In the early planning stage it is important to understand what data sources will be available for your command center. The choices will vary between social listening data and inbound social media analytical data from your marketing campaigns and other activities plus data from other digital marketing sources like web analytics. Combining data sets into a mashup and then using data visualization software to create fantastic views of the results is another exciting option that you may wish to pursue.
This approach can be a stunning way to show insights and business opportunities in real time. One such company I know that operates in this area is AVS.
4. Decide How Best To Include Your Brand identity.
Command center services in the cloud will often enable you to include your brand identity. This was one of the first aspects that I got to grips with when setting up my command center. Ask questions how brand fonts and colors can be included. You might also want to consider brand images to be used as a background to some of the data visualizations.
Plan time with your desktop publishing resources to size the images for the screen resolution you are using. There is a big difference if you are spreading an image over four or six HD screens compared to one as my team discovered but we got used to it. We arranged a weekly slot to test the background image quality and positioning so that the resolution and load times would be acceptable and that the image did not detract or overlap with the important areas of the data visualization. Our best time slot was Friday mornings but select what works best for you.
5. Select Your Data collection intervals.
When should you use a 30 day interval for the data selection to be displayed in a command center visualization compared to 7 or 24 hours? Some visualizations tend to display better over a 30 day interval and some only make sense when the data is from the last 24 hours. So my advice is test as there is no rule I can suggest.
Note that there is a difference between showing data for the last 24 hours compared to the setting called “today” if you have that available. At the first point in the day the visualization based on “today” might show zero results due to the generation rate of that data type which might crash your visualization or show blanks compared to the setting “last 24 hours” which would always show results.
My advice is also to experiment with how the data is sorted irrespective of the data collection interval. To highlight content from influencers sort by influence score. Sorting by creation date shows the very latest results but this could show irrelevant results based on the data you are collecting. I suggest to factor in if you have a walk-by command center compared to a workstation/console based type as you might want to highlight the latest influencer content for a walk-by type audience at all times.
There are often many choices to sort by depending on the command center services you have. Here are a few other options you might discover:
- Inbound or outbound count
- Net sentiment score
- Reply count
- Comment count
- Unique fans participated
6. Balance News Updates “The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly”.
Do not make the mistake of only showing positive social media results. If you have negative results it’s also good to show them to give a balanced view of what is being said about your company and happening in real time. It is also good to consider moving to a social media “take over” as I call it for crisis situations to highlight how the crisis is progressing including sentiment and the volume of the crisis messaging are key aspects to highlight.
Switch back to your normal command center afterwards, but always include visualizations which show areas that need improvement. I have set up an advance warning system for crisis using the built in rules engines from Sprinklr. I am sent an email when the rate of negative messaging has a steep rate of increase above what I have calculated to be normal for my company. The rate of increase and not volume is important to me as I want a notification before a crisis is well known.
7. Execute Good Social Media Management First; Then The Command Center later.
I suggest finalizing a very good social media management setup and strategy for all your social media accounts BEFORE creating a social media command center. This means that you have community managers, promotion, crisis and privacy procedures in place. You should also have a process for handling and distributing leads as well as customer care requests. There should also be a process to transfer posts from one community manager to another should they have been raised in the wrong social media location and a tracking system to measure the response times for SLA purposes.
A workstation/console based type of command center with multiple separate displays for each account/language type could work. This would still need a solid social media management process to be in place.
A single walk-by type command center should not be seen as a place to manage multiple local language based social media accounts. It is not a substitute for community management if you have multiple local language based accounts. Walk-by command centers can provide an overall view of what is happening particularly to the C-suite.
8. Document Your Maintenance And Update Processes.
Discover the best low traffic times for regular maintenance of the command center screens, software and server (if you have a server based command center). If your command center is browser-based make sure that you do not have pop-ups and update messaging continually being shown on the screen and interrupting the data visualizations. Make sure that the command center has its own allocated power feed and highly secure high-bandwidth Internet connection. I have also arranged special access to IT support should it be needed.
If you have a server based command center make sure it is located so that it is not accidentally tampered with and yet can still be accessible. I use a wireless mouse and keyboard but I also have wired versions handy just in case.
9. Have Your Disaster plan Options Ready.
What happens if something goes wrong with the command center data feed what would you do? Make sure you have substitute feed arrangements. If that also fails company YouTube channel and video files looped to avoid blank screens will do until service is resumed.
10. Consider Doing Command center presentations.
I love presenting from the command center. This varies from a passer by who wants to know more about what they are seeing to organized meetings to discover insights related to their campaigns in real time.
I often plan a meeting room nearby where I can explain how the data discovery process was handled. When we move to the command center the visiting group are fully aware of how the data was selected and managed. They can now concentrate their questions on understanding the flow of information and insights happening in real time before their eyes. Plan ahead for this. Make sure your command center has a useful open space in front of it bearing in mind the optimum visual viewing distance.
The command center services that I use in my company has a remote control option which enables me to jump to visualizations based on the questions as they arise. Last week I presented to 25-30 people using my mobile phone to select the visualizations as needed. That was a lot of fun for me controlling live data on six huge HD screens while still keeping eye contact with my audience.
It goes without saying that you need to have a trained team to manage your command center set up. Obtaining the screens is just the start not the end. This is true even if you have a basic walk-by command center using Internet ready monitors.
To help you keep up to date I have a Twitter list that you can subscribe to for updates about social media command centers. I use it all the time.
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