Social Media War Rooms: The Next Chapter in Marketing

America was fixated on the second half of the 2013 Super Bowl, where minutes after we had just seen Beyoncé perform an ensemble of her hits, a 33-minute blackout hit the New Orleans stadium. While most people saw this as an opportunity to get some snacks or a beer, a small group hired by Oreo was huddled in a small room with the goal of hijacking the incident by creating real-time marketing content. In minutes, they were able to design, caption, approve, and post what was later seen as one of the most successful ads of the game.

Brands started embracing these social media war rooms, and continued to use them throughout other tent-pole events like the Oscars, Grammys, and the 2014 World Cup. We used to believe that the purpose of social media was to gain likes and followers, but we’re learning that it’s becoming so much more than that. Social media is now included in the strategies for HR, PR, Direct Sales, Customer Service, and business intelligence among other things. With the word war in it, it’s easy to believe that brands are using these war rooms to command or control social conversations. However, I want to remind you that social media communication is first and foremost about people centric engagements — the user controls the conversation.

What does a war room look like?

Social Media War Room at the 2014 World Cup | Adidas

Early social media war rooms were centered around a small group of analysts, producers, strategists, and designers who leveraged real-time data to create relevant and insightful content. The number of people in charge with analyzing data and suggesting ideas ranged from five to upwards of 50. Aided by digital screens displaying analytics and insights, these teams were able to come up with some quick, witty, and relevant content that didn’t feel like your average “buy my product” ad.

These war rooms usually faded out as soon as the event was over, with the team returning to their regular day-to-day cubicles. However, there were some brands like Gatorade and McDonalds who bet on investing into these strategy rooms long-term. Instead of being centered on a specific event, these rooms monitored engagement and benchmark data about recent campaigns, helped brands with crisis-control, and gave companies the power to truly be a part of the conversation 24/7.

What does this say about modern marketing?

To be frank, the current marketing environment is a real-time war room. The old foundation of identifying an opportunity, discussing it with your team, and executing upon it is still there — but its happening at all hours of the day and 1000x faster. On top of the accelerated pace of modern marketing, “plugging out” of work is becoming more and more difficult when our job follows us home through our laptops or smartphones. Just ask the 6 in 10 executives who can’t seem to plug out during weekends, our work/life balance has reached a tipping point.

When you have an “always on” society who likes to comment on every new development going on in the world, the anchors over at your local 6pm news now seem sort of outdated. It’s no longer up to newsrooms or companies to tell us what information to consume and when. Instead, we take part in the conversation with or without them. Marketers have realized this, which is why they’re investing in data analytics to help them join the conversations in a much more organic way than just “shamelessly plugging” their products and services into our feeds.

When you look at Millennials alone and what they expect from brands, you can see how social media and real-time marketing will only get more and more prevalent. A quick glimpse into a study tells us that Millennials love to spend money on brands that court them actively, entertain them, or are recommended to them by friends. The generation after them, the digital-native Generation Z, is on a whole other levelwith how engaged and active they are online.

It’s an exciting time to be alive. Every single day I learn about a new product or service that makes me take a step back and say, “Wow. The Future is Now.” I talk about a new product to my friends, I share it to my social media feeds, and I google it in hopes of interacting with it more. That right there is modern marketing, the ability for me to interact with a product or brand on my own terms and at my own time. This real-time marketing can seem daunting to some professionals, but I remind you that amazing stuff happens outside of your own comfort zones. Take a breath, drop the “persuasive selling” technique, and genuinely contribute to our online conversations — I promise it will pay off.

authors note: Want to learn how to set up your very own social media war room? There are many resources out there that can help you, but I found this one by Amber Horsburgh helped me out the most:

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