FedEx: We built a social media command center, and so can you — Live from the Brands-Only Summit

Coverage of this session by Cale Johnson of Connect with him by following him on Twitter.

2:10 —'s Kurt Vanderah introduces FedEx's Brian Johnston.

2:11 — Brian: I am hoping to inspire you with the story of how we built our command center. It started in April of 2013. We had 5K mentions of FedEx each day, we needed to make the internal case for why we needed a space dedicated to social media.

2:13 — Brian: We got approved, so now what? We modeled our space around a traditional conference room with monitors on the wall. It was time to get our hands dirty.

2:15 — Brian: It made a huge difference to visit other command centers, read the research, and talk with our friends. We went to the Red Cross and NASCAR to learn from various experiences.

2:17 — Brian: The command center shouldn't just be the place you run to in a crisis, it should be part of your everyday.

2:19 — Brian: Think about the details. What technology do you need? What about the furniture? Understand the internal processes — how is finance and facilities involved?

2:21 — Brian: Think about your tools. What data do you want to show? Can you do this with your existing tools? What new ones will you need? Think about daily management. How do you staff your command center? How do you handle escalations procedures?

2:23 — Brian: It took us about 15 months from concept to construction, most of this was process and approvals. Be ready for the last minute changes.

2:23 — Brian: We had satellite, local cable, 19 various video sources we could drive to a number of monitors depending on the situation. When we opened we had a big open house and are already expanding our space.

2:24 — Brian: Some key takeaways. It's important to make friends and influence people, make the other teams that are helping you build your command center a part of the process. You need to depend on IT, customer service, executives, facilities and others.

2:25 — Brian: Invest in the ambiance. It can help you demonstrate that your command center is something different, it is change. When in doubt, go big on technology. If you think for a minute you will have a need for a piece of tech and you have the budget, go for it.

2:27 — Brian: Be flexible, the adoption will come. Focus on the customer. Build what is right for you. Build a space for social and good things will happen.


Q — How do you handle negative or angry voices? Do you filter bad language on the screens in the command center?

A — Brian: No filtering, we are the reality department. What we are showing is what people are saying. We want people to see some of the negative.

Q — Do you have screens outside of the command center to share?

A — Brian: That is part of a later phase. It is something we want to get into.

Q — How do you make the displays in your command center part of the team's everyday?

A — Brian: I work in the space and we are moving more of the team closer. We are working with other groups to try and have them camp out in the command center so they can see what is happening as they work.

Q — What cultural impact has the command center made? Was it a surprise?

A — Brian: Our team has been doing things differently every step of the way because the work is unique. That interested people.

Q — We had challenges with the virtual presence of our team which works across time zones and locations. How did you face that?

A — Brian: The tools we use can all be accessed directly from laptops anywhere. We encourage our teams to take advantage of that.

Q — How did you get the green light to move forward? What was the tipping point?

A — Brian: We didn't really have a tipping point. We were asking for something relatively small to start. That made buy-in inside the organization much easier.

Q — I've got the go-ahead to build our own command center. How do you use your command center on the day to day? What should I focus on?

A — Brian: We can pull various sources up on our screens – Twitter, hashtag breakdowns, customer service call center volume, IT outages, other internal operations data. This helps us break the news. Focus on Twitter and basic operational data.