More banks are relocating their social media teams into snazzy high-tech, high-profile spaces, signaling the increasing strategic importance of social channels among the world’s largest financial institutions.
Not more than three or four years ago, financial institutions began to realize they would need more staff to manage the massive workload required to maintain an effective social media presence. And once banks started hiring social media specialists, it was inevitable that these new employees would eventually get their own digs.
In late 2012, NAB in Australia became the first bank to open a “social media command center” when they opened the doors on a new space for their seven-person social support team. Then there was MasterCard, with their “Conversation Suite.” Now, two more banks are following in their footsteps: Wells Fargo and Chase.
Chase Bank’s Studio Turns Social Media Into a Sidewalk Show
Earlier this year, Chase moved its 12-person Twitter team out of the corporate netherworld into a fancy facility in the bank’s sprawling campus in Columbus, Ohio.
The new command center is situated on the ground level across from the office park’s Starbucks outlet. Encased in glass, the command center puts the social media team’s activities smack in front of the 10,000 bank employees working at the complex. If you can imagine, it would be like working in a fishbowl, where your daily job responsibilities become almost a form of performance art.
“No more jeans for us,” says Bianca Buckridee, Social Media Operations Manager for Chase. “Definitely business casual.”
“You can stop by and on the side of the building what you’ll see is two huge monitors,” Buckridee explains. “You have individuals standing there looking at a scrolling feed of the actual tweets from our customers, and they’re saying, ‘Wow, we didn’t even know Chase was on Twitter.”
“This gives us a ton more visibility,” Buckridee adds. “We’ll be there, working in real time.”
Chase Bank – Social Media Command Center
( Read More: Aussie Bank Unveils New Social Media Command Centre )
The decision to situate the social media team in such a high-traffic location isn’t unique to Chase. MasterCard made a similar move this year when they plunked their “Conversation Suite” right in the middle of an open-air atrium at one of the financial giant’s HQ facilities.
Chase Bank’s Twitter team was created in early 2012 after Buckridee was recruited from SunTrust where she started a similar customer service Twitter team. Previously, Buckridee’s social media team shared space within the bank’s other customer service groups.
At many big banks, customer service specialists are segregated by product line, where each division is essentially responsible for handling its own problems. But not at Chase, where the social media support team includes a mix of representatives from across the organization.
“I have specialists from retail, credit cards and home lending reacting to customer inquiries in real time,” Buckridee explains. “For the first time at this bank, you have customer service specialists from each line of business sitting together and working together on Twitter.”
Christina Smith, a social media consultant, sees symbolic and strategic significance in giving social media teams their own dedicated workspace, particularly when putting it in such a high-visibility location. She likens Chase Bank’s command center to NBC’s street side studio for the “Today” show at Rockefeller Center.
“By physically changing and elevating the social media team — as opposed to the other valued, but more traditional, service teams it formerly shared space with — Chase is making a statement about the nature of social and the need for social media efforts to be integrated and assimilated into corporate initiatives,” Smith says.
( Read More: MasterCard’s Social Media ‘Conversation Suite’ Shapes Brand Strategy )
Wells Fargo: Doubling Down on Two Coasts
Wells Fargo plans to open two “social reputation command centers,” with its main base in San Francisco and a secondary hub located in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Renee Brown, SVP and director of social media at Wells Fargo, says the command centers will help the bank respond to issues and concerns that arise online. The command centers will allow the bank monitor consumers’ reaction to its marketing efforts, helping Wells Fargo executives understand how its messages and activities are being received, where it can improve and what resonates with customers.
“We are building social enterprise as its own business,” Brown told the Charlotte Business Journal. “It touches every single one of our businesses.”
Brown says her budget is slated to double next year, as Wells Fargo ramps up its use of social media. Part of that budget will be used to fill new positions in the bank’s new command centers, starting with an on-site supervisor for each location.
Wells Fargo created a new role for two “Social Media Command Center Leaders” who will be responsible for empowering the bank’s social teams to build relationships with digital influencers, monitor for brand-threatening issues and lead customer service resolution. The main responsibility of the command center leader will be to triage incoming issues from all social media outlets and escalate, respond or forward to the appropriate area within the company. Ultimately, they will determine whether, when and how Wells Fargo should participate in any given online conversation.
Command center leaders will also work closely with the bank’s analytics department and content creation team to uncover relevant insights that could impact the brand, customer service and day-to-day operations.
More broadly, command center leaders will be expected to help educate internal stakeholders about the importance of social media to the overall Wells Fargo brand and build internal support for social media initiatives, especially those related to brand reputation or customer service.