Last week several of us at Social Media Today were invited to see MasterCard's Conversation Suite at their headquarters in Purchase, New York. (Real name.) We spoke with Andrew Bowins, Marcy Cohen, and Jennifer Stalzer, Senior Vice President, External Communications and Senior Business Leaders of MasterCard Worldwide, who showed us how the Conversation Suite is helping inform businesses and enabling them to create more meaningful conversations with their customers:
Social Media Today: What's the history of the conversation suite? Did it replace anything you were using before? Or was it a completely new product at MasterCard?
Andrew Bowins: It is an evolution of our world class digital marketing and communications platforms like Priceless, Priceless Cities and "A World Beyond Cash" initiative. It was a completely new program for MasterCard that was driven from our company's commitment to engage consumers and merchants directly, build even stronger relationships issuers and engage people in conversations that were meaningful to them. In doing so our goal was to earn the credibility to speak to these communities around our vision for a world beyond cash and the value and benefits digital payments over cash and check. It was also designed to be a catalyst for culture change and to bring the company, teams and employees into a social enterprise strategy and to think innovatively about how we communicate and are perceived as a company and brand. As important was the idea that before we could engage we had to learn to listen and from listening gain insights. As the cliché goes, "we were given two ears and one mouth so you should listen twice as much before you speak" . As a result we are today listening and engaging in 43 markets and 26 languages real time across social networks, blogs/forums, online and traditional media.
SMT: What were the most important features that were considered in designing the conversation suite? Has it been updated since it was first created?
AB: It was critical that we build an open and adaptive environment that was web and mobile ready and future proof. Whether in the suite or on the go any team member can access the tools, insights and engagement platforms from any device anywhere. The tool is built in partnership with Prime Research and an open API platform that allows us to constantly add, upgrade or integrate the best tools and solutions out there. We are on the 3rd update in 18 months and have just implemented global, regional, country and now neighborhood listening and engagement tools. 18 months ago we started with traditional media, Facebook and Twitter. Today we are listening and engaging in 43 markets and 26 languages real time across social networks, blogs/forums, online and traditional media that now include Weibo, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pintrest and soon Tumblr. We also added listening and search for online and mobile video. In fact, Over the past six months, 125,000 people created unique content or commentary about MasterCard, stimulating 520,000 social media conversations, with a potential reach of 1.3 billion people. Early days and more regular updates planned.
SMT: Who uses the conversation suite in MasterCard, and who uses it outside of the company? What's the response been?
AB: We have a truly integrated team approach. Worldwide Communications is the host organization and we partner with marketing, cardholder services, product groups and all employees that want to participate. We have training in place to create social ambassadors and social concierges that add there voice to the conversation and engage. The insights and analytics are shared weekly, monthly and quarterly to the entire company and we create custom reports and views for business units. We also have a Partner Plus program that invites our customers and merchants (that do business with us) to take advantage of the tools, insights and expertise. It's a true differentiator for us.
SMT: What changes have you seen since the conversation suite has been implemented? How has it affected the way MasterCard does business?
AB: It's a groundswell culture change where the company has embraced a social enterprise strategy that is built on the pillars of social media, social marketing and social product. It's not about a Twitter or Facebook strategy. It's about creating a force multiplier to the business and driving innovation and new thinking on how we connect, communicate and deliver value to people, merchants, governments and industry observers.
SMT: Looking to the future: How else would you like to see MasterCard integrate social practices? Can you talk about any future developments on the horizon?
AB: It's a living incubation that evolves daily. We test and learn and dream big. We humbly are in the early days and are proud of the initial success but have so much more we want to do. With our Partner Plus program and Social Jams we seek to partner and collaborate with the industry, with entrepreneurs and those that like to dream big and explore the idea of "what might be". One teaser is that we are looking at crowdsourcing in a new and innovative way and are well underway in bringing the "MasterCard Collaboration Suite" to life in the not too distant future.