This post originally appeared on the Salesforce Marketing Cloud blog, which you can find here

Cisco-Listening-CenterCisco is changing the way people connect and collaborate with social media. They recently launched their new Social Media Listening Center which enables employees, customers, partners and visitors to view real-time Cisco conversations from the social web. It's even packed with an interactive experience featuring six touch screens. We interviewed Charlie Treadwell, Social & Digital Marketing Manager at Cisco, to learn more about the new Social Media Listening Center including how brands, large and small, can create one of their own.

Give us the logistical low down on the listening center. Who sees it? What’s a typical day like for it? Who staffs it?

Cisco has adopted a hub and spoke model for our listening center because we have a diverse set of needs that are evolving constantly. We focused on the infrastructure to support a growing number of internal and customer facing listening centers, some permanent, and some short term/smaller scale for events like Cisco Live! or our Olympic sponsorship. The primary 6 screens we are visualizing help us identify first thing in the morning what conversation topics are trending and what the overall sentiment is.  We identify any spikes in negative mentions we need to investigate, influencers mentioning Cisco, or has our response time slipped for our event management. We are even installing a 2-screen kiosk in front of our CEO and CMO's offices. Typically configured to monitor brand mentions, trending topics, or influencer mentions, but this can be configured to focus on a vertical or business unit launching a new product or a new brand campaign we're launching. The listening center is staffed by 5 core team members, but supported by ambassadors embedded within each business unit, support and technical services, and a vast network of Cisco employees that have been identified as subject matter experts willing to engage customers and part ears on social media.

What inspired you to create it?

I have to admit, it all started after we saw what Dell and Gatorade created, but we had to investigate whether a similar command center was appropriate for a B2B brand like Cisco. We launched our first implementation of the listening center in the fall of 2011, which was essentially 6 large LED screens connected to 6 desktop computers powered by Radian6. At that time, we were using the listening center for demos with executive to drive support and sponsorship and explore what type of valuable information we could gather, and what type of technical and human infrastructure we would need. The listening center quickly became the ultimate conversation starter for us, but it was stuck in a cubical, and didn't allow for more than 5-6 people to congregate at one time. We wanted a space where teams could collaborate and be motivated to engage with their customers. Leveraging our new open workspace format, we chose one of our collaboration lounges as the perfect location for our new listening center, with a satellite listening center in our Executive Briefing Center.

What goes into the strategy behind the listening center and what is your number one strategic goal?

Social listening has allowed us to get closer to our customers. We believe the foundation of a strong social media strategy starts with listening. You have two ears and one mouth because you should listen twice as much as you speak. Our strategy began with the creation of a playbook.  This has been critical to establishing how we monitor, respond, and triage conversations as they happen across our organization. Cisco has taken an ABC and 1-2-3 approach to listening. First we identify what the “action based conversations” are (ABCs for short). For example, is it a question, support issue, crisis or maybe just a positive mention? Cisco gets about 5 to 7 thousand mentions a day and roughly 3% of those are actionable. We then prioritize them with 1-2-3 to determine if we need a response in 24-hours, 72-hours or just when we can get to it. The conversations are then routed to the appropriate team to take action.

Besides achieving this goal, how do you define success when it comes to your listening center?

Our ultimate goal in social media is to enable the totally engaged enterprise where every employee is empowered with the tools they need to engage with customers and partners. Adoption throughout Cisco will be a KPI for us. The Listening Center provides the capabilities to monitor, measure, and guide over 60,000 employees on a regular basis.

In what ways will it help your business?

With over 70 Facebook pages, and 100 Twitter accounts, the listening center helps route customer conversations, both direct and passive mentions to the appropriate product teams and functions at Cisco. To maintain a positive ROI in social, it's critical to only engage the necessary teams and individuals best suited to handle a conversion. From a customer’s perspective, they now expect Cisco to be listening, and it is our mission to ensure their voice is heard, and when appropriate, engaged by the best person to help them.  In addition, we are able to amplify and update our customers with information around their care-abouts.

What metrics will you be looking at most often and why?

We are actively measuring daily, monthly and quarterly mentions, tracking share of voice of top competitors at a brand level, as well as business unit, average daily sentiment, ABC conversation types, and resolution rate. These help us measure our social brand equity, impact of our marketing campaigns, capture voice of the customer, partner and influencer, and overall satisfaction with Cisco. Bringing us closer to our customers is our ultimate measure of success.

What advice can you give other brands, large or small, looking to create a listening center of their own?

Start by diving into the conversations, identify what is most valuable, is it measuring mentions, crisis management, or something more tactical, like identifying actionable conversations and responding to customers? Create a playbook so you know what to do when someone or something turns up the heat. Be prepared for a lot more attention from your managers and executives, and form a strategy around internal adoption, because a listening center is going to magnify the work your teams have been doing. Focus on supporting or achieving existing or emerging business objectives and social listening will be easy to sell and will even become a critical measurement tool and strategic advantage.  

Thank you for your time today, Charlie. We look forward to hearing future stories about the Social Media Listening Center. In the mean time, check out their blog post about this topic and watch the unveiling of the Listening Center below.