“Customers trust us with their digital lives,” says Ben Kay, head of digital strategy and social at mobile telecommunications provider EE. “Digital is at the heart of our ethos.”
That ethos means that social media has been an intrinsic component of EE’s strategy since it launched back in 2010.
“When we launched, we knew we needed to back this up from a social perspective,” Kay says. “We needed to weave social tools, best practices and techniques into the very DNA of our organisation to survive and thrive.”
It was Kay’s aim from the beginning to inject social media insight from its 95,000 Twitter followers and over 500,000 Facebook fans into every aspect of the business.
EE could use social media, Kay felt, both reactively – to address customer services issues as they arise, for example – and proactively in marking and product development.
Key to both uses is the ability to react in real-time, Kay explained that the recent Social CRM conference in London.
“Our customers are operating in real time, our products are real time, so we had to think – how can we operate in real time and embed that into the organisation?” Kay said.
Setting up the Social Hub
The solution was to set up a social media ‘command centre’ to monitor, coordinate, manage and evaluate social media and feed back intelligence into the business.
This took the form of the ‘Social Hub’– a cross-functional physical that houses social media monitoring and community management teams, as well as technical support staff.
The software that supports the Social Hub was built by social media analysis provider Smesh, in conjunction with digital agency Poke.
"We needed to weave social tools into the DNA of our organisation"
The system visualises huge volumes of social media data, showing – among other metrics – the number of times both EE and its competitors have been mentioned on the likes of Facebook and Twitter, and an assessment of the sentiment being expressed towards the company.
The platform also tracks how EE’s marketing campaigns are performing in real time by following specific hashtags or YouTube URLs. This intelligence is integrated into the marketing department’s planning process.
“This plugs into the marketing calendar, so as well as reacting in real time and communicating with the customer service team, the social media monitoring team can sit down on a weekly basis and know what the conversations are and the issues are,” says Kay.
The Social Hub is an open environment, and employees from all departments are encouraged to wander in and see how the company is performing online. “The Social Hub is a place where people go and hang out and understand what are the latest conversations that are happening."
Kay reports that the Social Hub proved its worth during the launch of the new EE brand. It helped the company distinguish between low-key chatter and more important social media discussions, and respond to the comments that mattered.
Senior representatives, creative teams and support teams were able to come together in one room to react to social activity as one coherent unit. “As soon as the board made the press announcement, they went across to the social media hub to see what the reaction was,” says Kay.
Now, the Social Hub is a place where people go and hang out and understand what the latest conversations are,” he explains.
One aim of this policy is to spread social media expertise throughout the organisation. “The Hub is not just about listening, although that’s crucially important – it’s about building a centre of excellence and taking that insight back into the business, disseminating that capability out amongst the organisation.”
“It’s been a massively powerful tool for us that has allowed us to deliver a social community that resonated with our audience, and to always actively manage our social reputation. It’s also an integral learning tool.
“The word media is misleading because it’s about more than media– it’s a social way of doing business."