Inside Mastercard's Social Command Center

Few would argue that embedding social throughout the company is not a worthy goal. The question is how to do so in far-flung companies of massive scale. For Mastercard, diffusing social in the organization, ironically, meant centralizing it.

Enter the Mastercard “conversation suite,” an open floor plan workspace where a dedicated team of four sits and listens to what stakeholders are saying about the brand. When this team is sleeping, its counterpart in Singapore, Dubai and Australia takes over. The tool is Web-based, so all 60 of Mastercard’s global PR staff have access to it. And some marketing and product specialists can access it as well. The main team (U.S.) of four collaborates internally with PR, marketing, product and customer service teams to better engage stakeholders.

“The cultural transformation we are beginning to achieve at a 45-year-old company is unbelievable,” said Marcy Cohen, vp and senior business leader for worldwide communications at Mastercard. “We have been tasked to transform Mastercard into a tech and payments company, and implementing an initiative like this has really helped make a cultural change. There’s so much more collaboration.”

The command center is located at Mastercard’s Purchase, N.Y., headquarters. There’s a 40-foot LED display that shows all the conversations going on about the brand in real time, and Mastercard encourages employees to come check it out and even bring in partners to demonstrate the capabilities. There’s also a rotating group of people from PR, marketing and customer service who spend two or three hours a day in the command center.

The social command center team works with Mastercard business units on ad hoc reports for specific initiatives. For example, through a study of 85,000 conversations on mobile payments, Mastercard discovered early adopters express frustration over acceptance at point-of-sale and perceived lack of customer support, while non-adopters cite security and confusion over the array of options as core concerns and possible barriers to entry. These insights helped Mastercard craft the MasterPass digital wallet announcement at Mobile World Congress.

Several brands, such as Dell, Cisco and Gatorade, have turned to social command centers to act as a hub where they can collect, analyze and then act on relevant social media conversations. The idea of centralizing it is that this group can then disseminate the relevant conversation or information to a specific department within the organization.

Mastercard’s command center is not just monitoring social conversations. The tool is looking at everything from share of voice by region, to pulling in all the press coverage that has included significant mention of Mastercard. Mastercard’s identifying key journalists issuing these stories and which media outlets are most prevalent. It’s looking at influencers as a vast array of people. Not just people on social media platforms. The company is also treating media as influencers. The media isn’t just issuing stories in print and broadcast. The journalist is tweeting it out and so is the media outlet.

Eighteen months ago, Mastercard conducted a study and found there are 30 million conversations happening a month on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, with people talking about Mastercard. The brand was part of less than 1 percent of these conversations. Today, the company is looking for conversations that mention Mastercard or topics relevant to the brand, like a world beyond cash, emerging payments and financial inclusion. The company puts together weekly and quarterly analytics and sends it out to a vast array of execs and senior managers.

“Before that, we were doing some social media listening and some engagement, but it was nothing like what we are doing today,” Cohen said. “Today, almost everything we do is rooted in insights we’re gathering from the conversation suite, transforming the way we do business. Our processes have changed.”

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