An exclusive, in-depth look into the Super Bowl’s first ever social media command center, the folks who ran it, and how the convergence of technology and people created the ultimate online Super Bowl experience.

Me with Taulbee Jackson, CEO of Raidious

Me with Taulbee Jackson, CEO of Raidious

You would think that, the day before the biggest sporting event of the year, the people in charge of the Super Bowl's Social Media Command Center would be frantic, running around and putting out last minute fires. So imagine my surprise when I walked in and found it to be quite the opposite. Entering the offices of Raidious — the Indianapolis-based digital communications company behind the social media command center — the air was full of activity, but the mood was quiet and calm… almost, I dare say, serene.

And it’s no wonder. Having worked with such brands as Finish Line, Bass Pro Shops and Comcast, Raidious has honed the art of making, managing, and measuring the content that makes digital marketing work. And so, for the folks at Raidious, this really is almost like business as usual — despite this being the largest event they’ve ever managed. A group of 16 Raidious employees and 30 local college and university volunteers were stationed at what can only be akin to iMac Heaven and focused on monitoring all of the Super Bowl’s social media channels. Leading these individuals was Taulbee Jackson, CEO of Raidious. It was my pleasure that he took a few minutes of his day to chat with me.

The Super Bowl Host Committee reached out to Raidious for assistance with the committee’s media department over a year and a half ago. Jackson then developed a mission that didn’t compete with the social media or marketing efforts of NFL Enterprises, but to showcase the city of Indianapolis and to create what he calls the “ultimate Super Bowl experience.”

The model was simple: monitor, moderate and publish. Aside from monitoring the Super Bowl’s official blog, Twitter account (@SuperBowl2012), hashtags (#sb46, #superbowl, #sbvillage and #nflexperience), and Facebook page, below is a play-by-play of the action plan:

A 9-screen monitor wall (over 100 sq feet) which provided real-time info from various sources

Mission & Goals

  1.  Super Safety – With an anticipated 150,000 visitors to descend on Indianapolis, a main focus of the social media command center is to ensure public safety. They will monitor social media channels for traffic situations, parking recommendations, and anything that could be considered suspicious behavior or malevolent. Additionally, should a crisis situation present itself, the command center will disseminate information for Homeland Security and public safety command centers.
  2. Super Service – Part of delivering on the ultimate Super Bowl Experience means highlighting the hospitality of Indianapolis, providing directions, guidance and navigation, and offering information about ongoing Super Bowl events to visitors. The command center will also respond to any negative dialog related to the city or event and to mitigate any negative sentiment — that is, Twitter messages or Facebook comments from disgruntled fans and followers will likely get a rapid response.
  3. Capture the Experience – A large function of the social media command center is to gather information, post images and videos, and write content. Essentially, to know what’s happening when and where, capture it and publish it.
  4. Amplification - The command center not only monitored conversation, but it was also curators and communicators of content that highlighted positive things related to Indianapolis and the Super Bowl, and used digital channels to spread this information.

Campaigns & Programs

  • #Social46 – As part of the effort to make the Super Bowl the most connected story in history, 46 of the most socially influential people (based on their Klout scores) in Indiana were selected to represent the city and state of Indiana, as well as give exclusive insight into all things related to the Super Bowl. Read more.
  • #Supercars – To  bring a little “Indy” to the NFL, 33 Indy cars were placed around the state of Indiana, one for each of the 32 NFL teams and one for Super Bowl XLVI. Fans of both the NFL and Indy 500 drove around the state  to find each car. Read more.
  • Foursquare – Considering that over 130,000 people checked into last year’s Super Bowl, it was only natural to use location-based Foursquare as a means to deliver flash sales to visitors checking in to local hot spots and Super Bowl events.
  • #46Stories – Raidious asked 46 media outlets in and around the Indianapolis area to collect and publish stories and to help generate conversation and hype. The 46 stories series gives fans access to events around the city and also asks for them to share their own stories. Complete archive of Super Bowl 46 stories.
  • Content Team – Huddles were spread around the city to act as "human versions of Google." Armed with Galaxy tablets, members of the huddle teams were prepared to answer visitors questions such as where to find a good place to eat or to provide directions and guidance. Each huddle was comprised of an 11 person team, including a Quarterback (the leader) and a Running Back (a runner of information). Additionally, visitors could take images or record a video at various Social Sharing kiosks that would then be posted to the Super Bowl’s YouTube or Flickr channels.

Thirty university and college students helped monitor online chatter using Awareness, Inc. Social Media Monitoring Hub

Tools & Technology

  •  Awareness, Inc. – After test driving many different social monitoring systems, Raidious chose Awareness Inc.’s Social Media Marketing Hub for publishing, monitoring and analyzing conversation streams. Raidious  chose Awareness, Inc because of it’s capabilities and user interface, liking it so much that they even worked with Awareness, Inc. developers to further enhance the analytics portion of the service (to be available in a future release). Using the Hub’s built-in workflow, the 30 university volunteers would monitor and respond to chatter that would then be immediately put into an “editing” queue. One of the 16 Raidious employees would then approve the response and push it live.
  • ChaCha Answers Application – ChaCha, also based in Indianapolis, is a service that gives free, real-time answers to any question both online at ChaCha.com and through mobile phones. Raidious used ChaCha to build a list of responses to take the guess work out of how to best answer comments or chatter for the volunteers.
  • NSixty – Raidious used NSixty to create the video recording kiosks found throughout the Super Bowl Village. These were available for visitors to create videos via the video recording stations which would then be uploaded into a moderation queue and then published to YouTube or Flickr by a Raidious employee.
  • Monitor Wall (NFL Network, WTHR, ESPN) – On the wall of the social media command center was a 9-screen monitor wall (over 100 sq feet) which provided real-time web traffic from Google Analytics (beta), sentiment & web monitoring via Social Mention, geotargeted monitoring from real time trends from NewsMap, and sentiment from WeFeelFine.org. 
Before Raidious became involved, the direct audience was hovering around 5,000 followers and fans. In two weeks time, Raidious grew that audience to over 48,000 simply by commenting on wall posts and responding to tweets. Which proves that proactive engagement does indeed work.

Measurement & Engagement
The Social Media Command Center tracked five key metrics:

  • Reach – this metric is based on the number of people in the direct audience. So, the number of Twitter followers (27, 955 as of this writing) and Facebook fans (currently just over 17,000). Before Raidious became involved, the direct audience was hovering around 5,000 followers and fans. In two weeks time, Raidious grew that audience to over 48,000 (at the time of Kick off) simply by commenting on wall posts and responding to tweets. Which proves that proactive engagement does indeed work.
  • Amplification – this metric is based on the number of impressions generated by the direct audience’s audience. So, retweets, shares and other impressions that were generated by the second level audience (friends of friends). According to Jackson, they were seeing content amplified at 800K – 1M impressions a day-- that's an estimated 14 million audience just in the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl. Translating that into cost per thousand, he estimated that they were providing over 500K in value to the Super Bowl’s overall marketing strategy.
  • Sentiment – assessing the mood / emotions of the overall audience by looking at the context, tone, emotion, polarity and objectivity of the comments. Sentiment is measured as a positive:negative ratio -- the ratio of mentions that are generally positive to those that are generally negative. According to the metrics available at the time I spoke with Jackson, the current sentiment was 3:1 positive ratio — this ratio is not commonly seen above 2:1, so this achievement is something of which to be quite proud.
  • Influence – relates to how influential the Host committee is based on Klout score. The Super Bowl’s Klout score is holding steady at 68 while the NFL has a Klout score of 65.
  • Activity – how often content was being published. Jackson anticipated this number to increase over the course of the weekend, but he was also very cognizant of not to publish too frequently as to avoid audience burn.
    • As of Friday, fans had already made more than 1,748 videos and 4,502 postcards via the social sharing kiosks with an average of 700+ interactions a day. Read more.
    • Jackson estimated that his team was sending one response every two minutes. Compound that number over the 48 hours just before Kick off and you have an activity rate of 1,440 responses.
    • Social-TV analytics company, Bluefin Labs has so far tracked more than 12.2 million social-media comments during and after Super Bowl XLVI, primarily on Twitter and Facebook. That’s a 578% increase over the total Bluefin tracked last year (1.8 million) Read more.

It’s clear that the efforts of the Social Media Command Center had two overall accomplishments of which everyone involved (the NFL, Raidious, and all the vendors) should be proud: 1) provided guidance and generated content for people who attended the Super Bowl in real life, and 2) extended the Super Bowl experience to a direct audience of 48,000 plus an amplified audience of 14M (calculating the 2 weeks leading up to the Super Bowl) in various online communities.

I would like to thank Taulbee for his time and a shout out to all the folks at Raidious for a great visit. Most importantly, I would like to thank Awareness, Inc and Scratch Marketing + Media (Jenn Reilly) for inviting me to experience the efforts of the Social Media Command Center first hand.