Behind the scene at Orange Social Hub, with Lionel Fumado


Businesses lost control over their image and reputation the very first day they lost the exclusivity of speach about themselves. Today, no business can afford to not listen what’s being said on social networks, identify weak signals, anticipate crisis and proactively engage with their communities and clients.

They build dedicated systems from both a technology and organizational standpoint.

Today I propose you to discover Orange‘s one, the Social Hub, with an interview with Lionel Fumado who’s in charge of managing this activiyt.

Bertrand Duperrin: Hi Lionel. What’s the idea behind the Social Hub ?

Lionel Fumado
Lionel Fumado

        Lionel Fumado : Our purpose was to bring the public’s voice into the company. It resulted in two projects.

First, the Social Hub which is a place for digital communication with screens allowing to follow the conversations on social networks. Second, Social Walls that allow to capitalize on the data captured by the hub, turned into visualizable data and shared one screens throughout the company.

My POV : a necessary initiatives that, ironically, reminds us that businesses were originally buit to be “customer voice proof”.

BD : Are Digital walls made for internal intelligence or awareness ?

LF : We have several kinds of walls, for communication purposes.

We can bring to light tweets and influencers about an event or a topic in a visual way and highlight hot topics for people who don’t have this culture. We also have screens with a monitoring and analysis purpose. It helps us to follow the news that concern us, influencers or what our competitors are doing. I can see who’s impactful in the 30 countries where we are operating, what our environment is saying (customers, influencers, competitors).

The idea is also to share the data with the marketing people. We have requests from them and we provide them with screens allowing to follow what matters to them in real time.

The customer voice must enter the organization

On the CRM side we also have screens with indicators like “response rate”, “average time before response” that help us to benchmark with our competitors on social networks. We can see that the figures vary a lot depending on the country and the maturity of the market, most of all in terms of volume. Of course it’s real time, we have no fixed dashboards.

BD : Is there a centralized approach to data collection that is, then, shared internally ?

LF : Yes.What we’re actually dealing with here is image and influence. We’re monitoring influence, journalists, bloggers, elected representatives, many stakeholders and we’re feeding communication, public affairs, general secretary etc. We’re in alert about some sensitive matters to anticipate the risks and postures, identify the influencers and act proactively. It’s all about risk anticipation and, if the crisis occurs, we’re providing the crisis center with real time information.

We also have a communication job throught accounts such as  @orange for the brand where we’re collaborating on the brand content and  @orangegroupPR (english) et @presseorange (french) for PR and  news.

We have a governance job. We’re establishing guidelines and good practices. We validate the conditions under which an official account can be create for orange. It requires an audience that’s not being addressed so far, an editorial line, resources, a defined goal. We want our image and presence to be understandable by the public.

When digital is everywhere it’s not in a specific place anymore.

Last, we also work on datavisualization to help communication teams to use social data. We used to have a digital directorate but now we’re a unit helping other departments.

BD : Today you belong to “Press and media” …

LF : Right. And we work with brand, sponsoring, shareholder relationship, internal communication teams. We moved to being specialists to being companions. The others come here to work with us and we give them  the keys to success, to integrate digital upstream in their thinking process.

My POV : when digital is everywhere it’s nowhere in particular but must innervate the whole organization. The digital team becomes an enablement team instead of centralizing and confiscating skills.

BD : Digital is not a tool nor a goal but a lever..

LF : Yes. Digital is a part of communication so when we’re preparing an event we’re thinking about the role of digital upstream and help other teams to define their goals, KPIs, prerequisites and sometimes train them to help them to work better with us. And it’s actually bearing fruits.

The idea behind the Hub, thanks to the screens, is to make customer feedback visible and understandable in the company. Before, we used to say the same things but the fact we can make them visualizable is a game changer. It builds synergies and automatisms that did not exist before. I see that my interlocutors are more receptive to what I say when I have a place to show and demonstrate things.

BD : Regarding to monitoring and intelligence, you told me that you were not very focused on what’s being said about Orange but about topics that matter for Orange.

LF : We’re monitoring some defined topics that are what we call “our client’s essentials”. Namely : the house, work, entertainment, well being, family and payment. Behind that there are focuses on matters like connected objects, mobile payment, data protection etc… For example data protection is both about work, famille (kids) etc.

Intelligence feeds the editorial reflexion

This intelligence work helps to feed the editorial teams. We draw insights from it and use them to create specific content because we realize that people want to know more about a given topic. So we make interviews, dataviz, blog posts, videos that are successful and shared because they are about what people want to know about right now. The we measure the performance of contents, what works or not, to create a virtuous circle and be as close as possible to the public’s expectations.

My POV : a good idea that’s counter-intuitive in terms of communication and reputation. Focusing one onself has very little value. What works is to be at the crossing of your own topics and what your public expect. It’s key to anticipation instead of realizing afterwards that you were off topic.

BD : You told me that the data was shared internally, so you’re not “confiscating it”.

LF :Our dashboard are shared. Not everyone knows how to process data and turn collected data into actionable data, so we set up a team that can do that for anyone.

BD : We still too often see businesses where data is hoarded into silos, where the one that collects data keeps it for his own use. So many people in the company are reinventing the wheel and doing the same  thing at the same time…

LF : We tried to deduplicate as much as possible. Every department or team is responsible for his own scope. For example Orange France will monitor the feedbacks about the “LiveBox” (ie web/tv/phone appliance). We’re also working on the convergence of the tools we’re using. We worked a lot on rationalization over the that four years and we’re close to the ultimate step  : having all tha dashboards shared with all marketing and communication departments in the company. We’re on our way to mutualize all the data in the company.

BD : How did you start ? Did you have references, benchmarks ? You did you moved from the “blank page”.

LF : We were facing the blank page one year ago. We had a goal which was to bring the public’s voice into the company and help communications team with their digital transformation. We quickly realized that displaying and tracking social data in real time had value. We already tried such approaches internally but on small scopes and saw all the possible synergies.

We decided that the central point was going a be a place were we’ll be able to see things. We had the chance to see what Nestlé did with their “War room”. They started in 2012 so were two years ahead of us. We saw lots of interesting things but realized that not everything was for us : they built a digital acceleration team that performs monitoring but also delivers lots of training session. So we started to think about a model that would be our own.

Orange Social Hub

The longest part of the work was to design the space. Visualization was key so we needed screens. But how many ? Where ? Who’s supposed to be in the room ? In front of each screen ? What should be displayed and what’s the added value ?

The result was a space split in two. A part of the room hosts 4 people with 6 screens for monitoring and community management. In face these screens act like a single one so we can chose to display what we want, organize the windows like we want etc… depending on what we need at a given moment.

Orange Social Hub

The other part is a supervision space with social walls, country monitoring…we also have a “welcoming space” to invite people, make demos, trainings…

Orange Social Hub

So, design was the longest part. We started from real cases (crisis, monitoring, product launch), turned them into scenaris, scripted what could happen and how we could respond, with the needed data and technology. We also listed all the skills we needed in front of the screen. Then we designed the requires workflows…

Data is useless if not visualizable, sharable and actionable

Then we worked with the brand on the physical side of the Hub : the place, the furniture, the colors, how to integrate technology in the furniture to make the Hub clean, bright and, most of all, don’t make it look like a technology place. We wanted to avoid the “space shuttle” or “Command Center” syndrome. We did not want technology to be stifling.

Orange Social Hub
Orange Social Hub

A partner helped with with screens and supervision. We needed very narrow edged screens to create the illusion of a single screen and, most al all, screen that don’t heat. We chose screens designed for supervision centers. Anything generating heat and can make the place uncomfortable has been installed in a separate technical room.

Then we chose the tools, capitalizing as much as possible on those we were already using. We also challenged our providers on the ability to feed our social walls by using each other’s APIs.

We did not want a single solution to do everything and decided to use each solution for what it’s good at, using APIs to develop synergies. What matters is the added value, not to have lots of functionality that won’t be used.

My POV :the sscenio based approach looks like “design thinking” and is relevant. But the space based approach is more original. The place is often a poorly managed consequence instead of being one of the starting assumptions the rest is based on. We can see what Orange learned from their small internat experiments. Bottom line : we can the see success factors of such an approach : visualization and sharing should not only exist on screens but also in the workplace in “real” work.

The attention paid to the physical side (place, furniture etc) is worth being noticed.

BD : And what about data analysis ? Did you insource the required skills or decide to rely on external partners ?

LF : We did both. We expect the providers we work with to make us benefit from their skills and to be able to produce deliverables. When we’re under-staffed for any reason or when a crisis occurs, we have less time for analysis so we expect them to be able to take over on short periods so we can focus on our action plan.

We need humans to interpret the data

The human side is very important in the data business. Having a good solution matters very little if no one is capable of turning data into actionable insight.

My POV : a good way to manage staffing when the needs depends a lot on external and unpredictable factors.

BD : The work started about one year ago, the Social Hub has been up and running since march. What have you learned so far ?

LF : The first thing I learned is that we still have a lot to learn. We’re learning by practising. Since we’re a little ahead of the market, we have time to explore new ideas.

We had the intuition that this place would help us to work better with other teams that don’t have a digital mindset or way to work and it’s been confirmed. We often have people coming from other departments to seek help and the Hub makes it easier to involve them.

Second learning : the place is already almost too little. We wanted a work space that could also be used as a demo space. We have so many visitors from Orange or others companies that it’s not always easy to operate normally and welcome these visitors at the same time. We’re victims of our own success but, at least, what we show is “real work”. This work inspires a lot of people.

We have visits from people that are not in the communication work, like HR for example. And from businesses that are not in our industry. They come to learn but we also learn a lot  from them.

BD : Do you have anything to add ?

LF : No… But it would be good to make an update in 6 month….

Thank you Lionel for this tour of the social hub. And see you in 6 months for an update !