The main wall inside The Hub at Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta is wallpapered with LCD screens displaying newsfeeds, statistics and social media chatter. Below, a team of analysts monitor about what people across the globe are saying about one of the world’s most beloved brands. In one corner of the room, a halfway-dissected Jenga tower sits on a table.
“John’s gonna knock it down to start the day,” Hub social media strategist Ben Kealy says as his colleague approaches the puzzle. “We’re trying to keep our startup mentality going.”
The Hub, ground zero for all things social media pertaining to The Coca-Cola Company and its brands, is housed in a hip, collaborative workspace employee and visitors alike clamor to see. Kealy says they usually have at least two or three tours come through every week. Everyone wants to know how Coca-Cola uses and monitors social media, but Kealy says a lot of people misunderstand what The Hub is doing, much to Kealy’s amusement.
“There are those people who are like “Oh, you’re just on Facebook all the time,” Kealy says. “No, that’s not it…we use tools to read Facebook for us.”
The 600 or so accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and other social networks around the world the Coca-Cola system uses to enagage consumers and fans are all tailored to their specific communities. Those consumers are posting a range of opinions and emotions. In the world of social media, trends and threads can spread rapidly. It’s Kealy’s job to monitor those conversations as they grow, dissipate and travel across country lines, and to track their overall global impact.
“We’re trying to understand how our consumers perceive our company, perceive our brands… both the positive and negative,” Kealy says. “There are 33 mentions of Coke per minute in English alone around the world. So people are telling us what they think about us. And it’s up to us to actually listen.”
Kealy doesn’t think Coca-Cola had a problem with listening to its customers before The Hub existed; the company just couldn’t respond in time. After taking a hard look at its network, Coke realized it needed to tie together insights its markets were reporting. It needed a place that could gather the information spreading through social media across the globe and make sense of it.
The Hub was the answer, a contact point that keeps the company on the cutting edge of communication as it happens. Now, Kealy and his fellow analysts can track conversations on social media even as they unfold.
On the side of the room opposite Jenga, Kealy and fellow strategist Simon Cowart sit at their desks with nine monitors, laptops and iPads between them. Kealy peruses various platforms looking for the day's top stories. A popular rock artist has just released on his website an old Coca-Cola commercial from 2006 that had only aired once before. And Eater has run a piece written by a 24-year-old “Coca-Cola virgin” on a “search for the perfectly American and impossibly iconic Coca-Cola experience.”
“We pick up on a lot of different things,” Kealy says. “A great example of that were small towns that were getting a revival. People were coming into the town, renovating the old buildings, and in particular they were renovating the old Coca-Cola signs. It was becoming a story. The Coca-Cola Journey team has then gone and done a number of different stories on these.”
Relaying intelligence and social media content opportunities to Coca-Cola teams like Journey up-to-date is a big part of The Hub’s day-to-day role (Kealy compiles a twice-weekly update on social media trends and sends it to Coca-Cola teams around the world). The Hub also wires together a global network of publishing and listening platforms at Coca-Cola, connecting digital marketers and giving them the tools and techniques to bring the company’s business strategy into social media.
The Hub’s strategists are also routinely in contact with the company’s local social media teams. The Hub has more than 30 social centers globally, and each one talks to its audience in a different way.
“Someone was telling me they grew up in Ghana,” Kealy says. “To them, Coca-Cola was a Ghanaian company. Coca-Cola was represented by their countrymen... It’s a reminder that our consumers sees us through that local market…our social needs to be local as well.”
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