Who Needs a Social Command Centre Anyway?

Allister Frost Founder, Wild Orange Media Ltd

Posted on May 3rd 2013

Who Needs a Social Command Centre Anyway?

The Social Command Centre—a kind of NASA Ground Control for social media hub teams in organisations—is an increasingly common sight these days inside large organisations. Here’s a snap of Microsoft’s latest prototype, which I saw running on a visit this week to their UK Campus:


The big idea behind command centres like this is to provide an at-a glance view of interesting things happening on the social web. In Microsoft’s case this equates to monitoring their own accounts across a variety of channels as well as any trending social chatter about selected products and services.

In reality though, having a whole bank of screens—I’ve seen as many as twenty—creates a wall of data that is sometimes very hard to analyse and understand without an army of community managers and data analysts. Unless you’re running a presidential election or overseeing a high-profile public event with millions of viewers, the chances are an oversized command centre may eventually prove as useful as an inflatable dartboard.

There’s is, however, a different purpose that a wall of screens can serve, and that’s to create a focal point for the company’s social media listening and response activities. For Microsoft, the monitors you see above help remind staff and executives that there’s a world outside of the corporate headquarters. Making a public show that you’re listening to the chatter and working hard to engage with customers in real-time sends a powerful signal across the organisation. This was the guiding principle behind Nokia’s social visualiser Agora (watch video), which was placed in public areas like staff canteens and thoroughfares within their office locations.

Of course, the Social Command Centre isn’t a new idea. Many other companies including Gatorade, Salesforce, Dell and NVIDIA have all publicly showcased monitor-laden operations centres. But for many the question remains, is this actually a useful tool for improving the effective use of social media marketing, a cheap way to inject outside influence onto an internal organisational culture or just an extravagant way to lend social media a much-needed air of credibility?

What do you think?


Allister Frost

Founder, Wild Orange Media Ltd

Allister Frost is the founder of Wild Orange Media. an agency specialising in helping companies evolve their marketing for our fast-changing digital world. He is an award-winning public speaker, trainer and consultant with over twenty years experience as a marketing professional. Voted UK Digital Marketing Personality of the Year in 2013, Allister was previously Microsoft's Head of Digital Marketing Strategy and now provides specialist guidance and support to companies on Planet Earth and in Cyberspace.

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Posted on May 3rd 2013 at 11:00AM

Hey Allister,

'Command centers' are important as that focal point, as you mention, but too many get caught up in the number of screens, here's ListenLogic's Intelligence Center which dwarfs the 20 screen center you mentioned, but then again we're overseeing real-time threats and risks for some of the largest corporations in the world.

What is critical to the command center is the technological "brains" behind it. Some of the corporations run obsolete technology with mere snipets and limited keyword lists, so they get a lot of "noise" from a fractional view of the social universe. It's essentially just 'checking the box' but not true advanced threat detection.

ListenLogic views the billions and billions of daily posts as a big data problem, which it is, but corporations have to look way beyond merely Facebook and Twitter, which most are focused on. As such, ListenLogic delivers a streaming big data solution that processes one billion operations per second with complex concept modeling in place of keywords to discover the full realm of possible ways something can be said to identify corporate threats in seconds.

So the 'command centers' certainly have a value, but only if you're running the correct technology behind all those impressive screens.


Posted on May 7th 2013 at 3:44AM

Good advice Mark. Moving beyond the 'lots of screens' obsession and really concentrating on the utility of the data presented seems so obvious it's surprising it could ever be overlooked by any switched on organisation. In my experience, social media montoring is both art and science; you need the right data mining and visualisation setup plus brilliant analysts who know how to repeatedly spot the gold nuggets buried in the  mud.