Networking technology provider Cisco has opened a Social Media Listening Center where interactive touchscreens offer visual data about the social media conversations Cisco “listens” to in real time.

See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Heal Me

The center, which Cisco says will be open to employees, partners, customers and visitors, features six large interactive touchscreens displaying a wide variety of data about social media conversations around Cisco and its brands, services and products. The Linux- and cloud-based proprietary Cisco Interactive Experience Solution creates the data visualizations and loads them onto the screens via an enterprise-grade browser. The data itself is generated by Cisco SocialMiner and Radian6 analytical solutions.

Specific visualizations include social conversations and engagement developing around various CiscoLive events, a global heat map displaying geographic dispersal of tweets about Cisco in real time, tracking of tweets about Cisco by identified “social influencers,” social conversations about Cisco products and services, and a social media word cloud that shows how popular certain relevant topics are in social media at any given moment.

Thumbnail image for cisco-social-center.png
The Tip of the Iceberg

The new center, which is located in the Cisco Executive Briefing Center in San Jose, CA, serves as a customer-facing example of Cisco’s ability to track relevant social media conversations in real-time. Behind the scenes, Cisco operates a center to monitor Cisco and competitor social conversations and identify opportunities for customer engagement such as answering product questions and offering live support. Cisco has also deployed targeted social media listening centers for clients such as the London Olympics. 

Breaking Down the Dedicated Social Media Listening Center

In an August 2012 blog post, noted technology analyst and commentator Jeremiah Owyang offered a breakdown of what he sees as the increasingly popular trend of major brands and consulting firms opening dedicated social media listening centers. He defines a social media listening center as “a physical space where companies coordinate to listen and engage their market in social channels to achieve business use cases in marketing engagement, customer care, risk management, or operational efficiency of coordination and contact center deflection.”

According to Owyang, a properly deployed social media listening center serves as a tactic in a larger social media strategy, rather than as a strategy in and of itself. Unless there are clear business goals and measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) in place, the center will simply serve as a “shiny Twitter room.” In addition, the center must be properly staffed, fully integrated with other parts of the business, have support from key executives and use leading-edge social listening and analytical technologies. Without all these factors in place, Owyang warns the social media listening center will likely wind up being a case of “cart before horse.”

Customer Care in the Modern Era

Cisco’s Social Media Listening Center is an example of the company’s broader focus on providing sufficient customer care in a new era of the “on the go” customer. CMSWire recently interviewed John Hernandez, Vice President and General Manager of Collaborative Business Applications at Cisco, about how the surge of mobile and social technologies has made traditional interactive voice response (IVR)-based customer care obsolete.

“Call centers don’t generally own social media responsibility,” Hernandez said, noting that social media teams are still attempting to find their rightful place in a company, in many cases “transitioning to a shared responsibility.”

Social media, he said, is causing changes to customer care that are “much bigger than mobile.” A consumer could be on, say, Facebook, and bad-mouthing a brand because of a product issue that they can’t get fixed -- like a lost luggage bag. In this case, Hernandez noted, customer care needs to be pro-active, made possible by the numerous social media tools that are becoming standard in customer relationship management/customer service platforms, including Cisco’s own Social Miner.

The Social Media Listening Center is a demonstration of the type of pervasive, proactive customer care Hernandez recommends. And as Owyang and Hernandez both point out, it must be part of a larger integrated customer care strategy that includes mobile care as well as good old-fashioned call centers.