MasterCard Harnesses the Power of Social with Innovative Conversation Suite

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MasterCard is transforming its corporate culture from B2B to a technology firm as it puts its finger on the pulse of social interactions to better understand consumers and clients.

A year ago, Master Card contracted NY media agency Prime Research to develop the Conversation Suite, a real-time, global insight, web analytics tool and engagement engine that shifted the company from merely monitoring media to purposeful listening. “Over the past six months, 125,000 people created unique content or commentary about MasterCard, stimulating 520,000 social media conversations, with a potential reach of 1.3 billion people. We’re doing this everyday across 43 markets and 26 languages in real time,” said Marcy Cohen, VP and Senior Business Leader at MasterCard.

brandchannel spoke with Cohen, who played a large role in the implementation of the conversation suite. “In the early days of social media, listening was the practice but now, there are so many opportunities to engage, to track trends and offer insights and deliver them back with analytics to customers,” she said. “It’s a real-time focus group. We track all mentions of MasterCard and any of our products, plus the competition, which really means the entire payments industry. The Suites have a dedicated worldwide communications staff of 60 people, all with password protected access, in a comfortable setting with a giant 40 ft. LED screen that updates every four minutes.”[more]

As for socializing the Suite within the company, Cohen said it’s supported by a cross-functional team including marketing, digital and legal. At launch, Cohen and her team reached out to all groups and departments. “The biggest surprise was that employees not involved with social media per se wanted to learn about it, one of the earliest was someone from Procurement who came and asked to be taught about it.”

The mother ship is based in Corporate Headquarters in Purchase, N.Y., with other locations in Miami, Mexico and Brazil—and there’s a mobile version, “a conversation-suite-on-the-road sort of like a traveling trade show booth,” says Cohen. More than 1,500 people including employees, issuers, partners, board members, celebrities and guests have been exposed to the Conversation Suite this year. 

“When we launched the Suite, we held a three-day ‘social jam session’ streamed globally and invited Google, Facebook, agencies—and all participated and gave feedback, we’ve had to be flexible and make changes to our open API platform.” As for the investment in such ‘digital war-rooms,’ Cohen said “we took the collective costs associated with traditional media clip services and were able to get the tool built and maintained for the same price.” 

“It’s completely transparent, anyone walking by can see what’s trending. We recently had a visit from Jack Dorsey, who said the Suite was ‘groundbreaking.’” Groundbreaking technology can be overwhelming with so much data being processed in real-time, but Cohen said it’s about maintaining a level of control, and using the data in the ways it was meant to be used. 

At the MasterPass launch at Mobile World Congress in Barcleona in February, Cohen and her team showcased the Conversation Suite to get real-time reactions from the show floor. “We quickly realized there was some confusion around what this product was going to be and how it would differ from Google Wallet,” Cohen told ClickZ. “We fed this feedback to the team that was demonstrating the product on the show floor and changed the messaging around the product…We quickly turned the conversation.”

“MasterCard is arguably one of the most successful financial companies to engage in social channels,” notes The Financial Brand. “In fact, if The Financial Brand included credit card companies in the Social Media Power 100 rankings, MasterCard would sit alone atop the list as the world’s most successful institution using social channels today, edging out Citi, Chase, Capital One, BofA and everyone else.” 

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