My colleague Ted Schadler and I published several case studies in our recent report, "The Road To Social Business Transformation Starts With A Burning Platform." What follows is one of those stories — Symantec's creation and roll-out of a social media initiative designed to funnel data from the social media sphere into the business to improve responsiveness to market trends. Here's the story:

Tristan Bishop, director of digital strategy at Symantec, knew something very important: If you listen to your customers, you can create a great experience that leads to customer loyalty. Of course, this knowledge was useless unless he could find a way to get the issues customers raised to the group within Symantec that could take appropriate action. So, in June 2011, Tristan worked with his manager, David Sward, senior director of user experience, to propose a plan to Symantec executives for exploring ways to uncover areas for customer experience improvements in social media. Symantec subsequently funded the project.

Around the time that Tristan was experimenting with social listening technology, Ellen Hayes, group manager, corporate communications and social strategy, and the social media team were working on a social listening initiative of their own for brand reputation management and public relations purposes. When they learned of what Tristan was doing, an idea emerged — they should marry their efforts to Tristan's.

The result? Tristan and the social media team created a social media command post using's Radian6 technology, which funnels customer mentions of Symantec to the department within Symantec that can best address the issue. Launched in November 2011, the listening program allows staffers in nine time zones around the world to categorize social media statements into seven categories: cases (requests for help); queries (questions that don't require support resources); rants (insults that warrant brand management consideration); raves (praise for Symantec); leads (pronouncements of near-term intent to purchase); RFEs (requests for enhancements to a product); and fraud (unauthorized sales of Symantec products).

Symantec is still developing its metrics and planning program improvements, but there are strong indications internally that the program is succeeding and will expand. Symantec executives are excited about it. Tristan and the social media team are planning to integrate the customer sentiments and interactions collected in Radian6 with client records in Salesforce CRM. Additionally, they'll be linking Radian6 to their implementation of Salesforce's Service Cloud with the intention of putting cases generated in social media on par with phone calls into contact centers.

So what's contributed to this success? First and foremost, Tristan and Ellen had management support. Symantec's CTO funded Tristan's initial social listening pilots and provided him autonomy to build a business case and plan for this program. This afforded Tristan the leeway to think differently and eventually form a partnership with the corporate communications and social media strategy team to create this social media command center.

Another big factor in their success is that they were able to leverage a common technology platform to create this program. Part of Tristan's mandate in the office of the CTO is to look for services that can serve multiple roles across the company. In 2011, it was clear that Symantec was going to use Salesforce as its CRM system, and in April 2011, acquired Radian6. Tristan saw that linking the sentiment analysis technology to the CRM system could form a broadly accessible tool set that would be the foundation of the social listening and response program.

Bringing groups from across Symantec together to work on this project was essential to its success. After all, if the sentiments collected in the social sphere aren't reaching the groups that can act upon them, what's the point? This collaborative effort began with a partnership between the CTO and corporate communications and social media strategy groups: Tristan works with the corporate social media strategist, Brian Watkins, on a daily basis. The collaborations quickly moved beyond this, though. The support and development organizations field cases; technical writers in the development teams answer queries; the corporate communications team addresses rants; product marketers reach out to those raving about Symantec; leads are routed to sales; product developers respond to RFEs; and the legal team follows up on cases of fraud. This broad-based participation demonstrates the value of the technology while ensuring that it becomes a part of many different business processes.

While the Radian6 technology provides configuration tools that pull out 99% of the noise, someone inside of Symantec has to sort through what remains and route it accordingly. So, Tristan's ability to hire a staff is also a critical factor for success. He began adding full-time staffers in September 2011 and augments this group with socially engaged Symantec employees within each of the product groups participating in the program. To keep his staff sane, no one spends 8 hours a day monitoring the queue, and the work is split up over different time zones.

When Tristan thinks back to the rollout, he admits that it wasn't all smooth sailing. Not every group in Symantec was bought in — they spent a lot of time promoting the idea that it's best to collaborate across the organization. They had to convince senior business leaders of the value of social customer engagement. As the program grew, they found it difficult to manage the scale on the budget they had (it's since been augmented) and to staff to keep pace with the demand.