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Did MLB Set the New Standard for Social Media Listening Command Centers?

ImageSocial Listening Command Centers are nothing new to social media managers. Dell, MasterCard, Cisco, and Tyson have industry-recognized listening command centers to monitor and measure online brand activity, and to find opportunities to engage customers.

Major League Baseball (MLB) unveiled a $30 million Replay Operations Center in its Chelsea-based offices last week. The center will be ready to review every play of every game this season should a manager challenge a call or from an automatic review should a contested play comes after the sixth inning.

MLB is providing this level of sophistication to review every play in an effort to ensure a consistent, high-quality product. Social Media Command Centers could learn a great deal from MLB's "command and correct" method. 

The Line Up

The operational process MLB has put in place is worth reviewing to find areas of best practices worth emulating.

  • Every play is subject to review will be analyzed in this room by at least one umpire and one trained technician
  • Each “virtual umpire” will sit at a replay station on the right side of a cubicle with two high-definition monitors in front of him
  • A replay official has three possible calls
    • Confirmed: If replay shows clear evidence the call is right
    • Stands: The replay was too close to tell one way or the other
    • Overturned: There is inarguable evidence that a mistake was made
  • To add transparency and fan-friendliness, a written explanation of the decision will be posted on
  • There may be six umpires and more technicians available
  • One of the added-value expectations is the belief that one or more umpires who are not reviewing a play will collaborate to add more eyes to the play
  • Once a challenge is registered, umpires who do not have a replay of their own at the moment can slide over and add more eyes to the play

Hitting a Home Run with Transparency

The catch:it's more than having subject matter experts monitoring product categories, crisis and issues important to the company. The key insight here is the tremendous value from deploying a room of generalists to provide analysis of online activity, at any given time, in the form of “virtual corporate umpires” which can collaborate depending on the issue or workload.

Another very intriguing aspect of the review process is that for every play reviewed a written explanation will be provided to fans via Imagine if brands published results of their Listening activity each day, week or by product or issue to their corporate digital platforms. Pardon the cliché, but that would be a “Transparency Triple Play.”

Reviewing More than just Strikes, Shares and Likes

Too often Social Media Command Centers can be used only to provide insight into what is taking place in the external environment.

By implementing this Replay Operations Center, not only is MLB keep its product consistent, but it’s also reviewing the actions and quality of its employees, in the form of umpire accuracy. MLB was sure to point out in the announcement that, “there were only 377 out of some 50,000 that merited review. Only 27 times did it happen twice in a game. On just three occasions, it happened three times, never against the same team.”

Great Social Media Command Centers should also look at what is going on internally, not just externally. The Social Business Command Center should be tracking internal activity alongside external conversations to provide business partners a full picture of how the company is operating.

Don’t Swing and Miss

It would be easy for brands to dismiss the comparison of MLB’s Review Center with the day-to-day online engagement management of a company. An average baseball season will see 2,430 games played over 180 days with each team playing 162 games; that’s only two financial quarter’s worth of activity.

It will be interesting to see what other innovations and insights come from MLB from having such a command view of every play that is taking place in its league. Just like with any other successful Social Media Command Center, expect to see shifts and changes. 

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