Why Social Media Command Centers Need to Be Less Like GI JOE

Jeff Berezny
Jeff Berezny Director of Content Strategy, Tent Social

Posted on January 24th 2013

Why Social Media Command Centers Need to Be Less Like GI JOE

Over the past couple of years, as large international entreprises have begun to realize the importance of social media strategy and marketing, there has been a new phenomenon that has sprouted up called a 'Social Media Command Center'.  These are generally great initiatives that can help hurdle organizations forward in the social media space.  That being said...

I don't know about you, but the images that are conjured up when I think 'Command Center' either involve GI JOE or NASA. And last time I checked, I wasn't in the business of battling cobra commander or launching spaceships.

Social Media Command Center

 The idea behind these new facilities within organizations is good, but in some ways they are inherently anti-social in the manner in which they are currently being promoted and used by companies such as DELL and Salesforce Marketing Cloud (Salesforce has a good run down of social media 'command' centers in different companies here)Read on for two big issues with these centers and one reason why they are so critical for success.

'Command' is the wrong word to use in social media

Social Media at its core is all about listening, engaging and connecting with your audience in a more 1-to-1, personal manner versus a top-down approach often exhibited through traditional advertising.  My issue isn't with the centers themselves, rather it is that the word 'command' could even make it through the corporate approval process and land on the wall of this highly public room.  If an organization believes that it is 'commanding' its social media presence, it doesn't actually understand social media.

Dictionary.com does a better job at illustrating this point than I can:

com·mand [kuh-mand, -mahnd]  

  1. to direct with specific authority or prerogative; order: The captain commanded his men to attack.
  2. to require authoritatively; demand: She commanded silence.
  3. to have or exercise authority or control over; be master of; have at one's bidding or disposal: ThePharaoh commanded 10,000 slaves.
  4. to deserve and receive (respect, sympathy, attention, etc.): He commands much respect for his attitude.
  5. to dominate by reason of location; overlook: The hill commands the sea.

All of the top 5 definitions from dictionary.com, include the idea of one party having authority over another.  If a business/brand tries to show any sort of authority over its customers, they won't be customers for long.  I get the intent behind the name, that it is a place for a team to 'command' the operations of social media in the organization, but just call it something different.

I am really surprised that a companies, such as DELL and Salesforce Marketing Cloud, have embraced this language.  Gatorade and Cisco get it as they removed 'command' from the title and simply called them social media listenting centers.  This makes a lot more sense to me and demonstrates empathy versus dictatorship.

DELL Social Media Command Center

From here on in, I'm going to call them social media listenting & engagement centers as I think this captures the activity that is actually taking place in these spaces.

They are Physical, not Mobile.

Apart from knitpicking about wording, a centralized Social Media Listening & Engagement Centre poses another issue, which is that of tying your social media communications to a single physical location. 

Social media does not obey rules of time and space, in that activity can happen at any time in any location around the globe.  Tying all of your social media activity to one place, requiring people be IN a physical room to manage the activity, is counter to the direction that technology is going, as mobile continues to become a more dominant force in everyone's lives.   

Mobile is quickly becoming the preferred means for most people to interact on social media platforms.  This allows instantaenous, location-based engagement, any time of the day. The last thing you want is to have to return to a physical location in order to properly respond or engage with your customers, or to only be 'ON' when someone is managing the center.

Note, I am NOT against having a physical location (as they have their own beneifts as you will see below), merely they should not be the only solution.  Mobile social media management MUST be included as a component of the plan if an organization wants its efforts to be sustainable and effective.

Why Big Companies Still Need Them

Arguably the biggest barrier to planning and executing social media activity effectively is gaining complete organizational buy-in and support.  Social Media can NOT be a silo'd activity within an organization.  It simply won't work and is impossible to manage.  If creating a physical space in your organization for a Social Media Engagment & Listening Center accomplishes the single task of raising awareness and organizational buy-in, into social media activity in general, then it is worth it. 

For small to mid sized companies, or those that are already running on all cylinders with social media, a fancy room with shiney monitors is simply not necessary. In fact it is a massive waste of money and does more to feed the ego of the executive who came up with the idea than to actually contribute to actionable, measurable results.  

My Prediction

These physical spaces are needed now to gain organizational buy-in, but will disappear in a few years as organizations realize they don't need a room equipped to launch space ships and battle cobra commander to manage social... they need a team of dedicated people with the right mobile tools and training to do the job, in real-time, wherever they are.

What do you think? Does your organization have a Social Media Listening & Engagement Center?

Jeff Berezny

Jeff Berezny

Director of Content Strategy, Tent Social

Jeff Berezny is founder of Tent Social , a boutique social media & content marketing agency based in Toronto and Vancouver, Canada with a virtual team that stretches around the globe.  Jeff is passionate about brand storytelling and strategy, lifestyle design, speaking, adventure, travel, kiteboarding and pretty much anything that challenges him. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter

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Brent Baltzer
Posted on April 2nd 2013 at 12:07AM

Dude, I can't believe you don't like calling it a "Command Center"! I love battling Cobra Commander and Destro! I hear what you're saying though, but I think Command Center is way more fun to say than "Listening and Engagement Center"... bleh! Anyways, potatoes po-tah-toes tomatoes to-mah-toes. I think it's pretty awesome to have a central command center so people can be together and collaborate. I think most companies need to have an integrated strategy across all social channels and that often requires collaboration between multiple people. It really helps to be in the same room. An example of this would be the Oregon Duck Quack Cave during a football game: http://www.postano.com/gallery/quack-cave/  So, in summation, I think a "Command Center/Listening and Engagement Center" can be a great thing... but it shouldn't be the only thing. It also doesn't necesarily have to be expensive... just put up a few monitors, no big whoop!