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MasterCard: Harnessing the Power of Social Listening


To monitor, engage in and analyze conversations around the world in real-time, 24/7, MasterCard created the Conversation Suite – a dynamic, global insights and engagement engine – built and supported by a global team of consultants and social experts. The social listening and analysis of public profile social data serve as a foundation for communication decision making and as a barometer and resource to the business. One demonstration of MasterCard’s ability to transform data into insights, actions and business results relates to its efforts in mobile payments, an emerging form of commerce enabled through the use of mobile devices.

Objectives & Approach

Despite the popular misconception, MasterCard does not issue credit cards (banks do). Instead, the company earns fees by making transactions and everyday commerce activities easier, more secure and more efficient. Since purchase volume is a business metric, the business seeks to accelerate the speed and ease of transactions through mobile payments.

In 2012, the MasterCard team first uncovered a trend revealing consumers’ excitement and anticipation for the emerging payments technology. But those who tried the technology expressed anxiety over acceptance and security. A deeper statistical analysis revealed that concerns over “security” centered on unfamiliarity with the technology and the fear of data compromises. Unease over “acceptance” arose over the inability of certain merchants – principally taxi drivers and fast food restaurants – to process mobile payments at the point of sale. Beyond the PR specialists who listened, engaged and refined their communication, the team shared their social “voice of the customer” insights with others throughout the company whose planning and execution were influenced in a variety of ways:

  • Go to market messaging and external communications were adapted to speak directly to the nsights realized via social listening.
  • A global PR campaign was designed to promote and proactively amplify the voice of the customer and position MasterCard as the technology partner that consumers and merchants could trust in the emergence of mobile payments.
  • Customer care and response teams were set up to monitor online/social chatter related to the subject matter and the company proactively engaged with people when questions were raised and used the platform to build trust and brand loyalty.

Following the initial discovery, the company’s market research reported on a variety of customer satisfaction issues, one of which was mobile payments and the associated concerns for data security and acceptance. The survey confirmed the social media conversations act as an early indicator of consumer sentiment.


In 2013, the follow-up study revealed that mobile payments transitioned from skepticism to adoption with positive user conversations now dominating compared to the prior year. The global customer satisfaction survey again confirmed the integrity of the social media insights. Most importantly, the volume of mobile payment transactions accelerated.

In 2014, the third social media analysis revealed that conversations had gone from “problem” to “problem solved” to “what’s next?”

The study revealed significant year-over-year improvements on a number of key performance indicators:

  • Social volume supporting mobile payments indicated growing acceptance. The number of identifiable mobile payment social conversations increased 22,000% over the course of three years.
  • Human-validated social sentiment achieved its most positive ratings in 2014 with 94% favorable conversations glo bally, up 17% from 2013 and up 24%. from 2012
  • By 2014, conversations centered on convenience rather anxiety, as consumers shared their excitement around integrating innovative payment solutions into their daily lives, as well as reward incentives and cardholder benefits through the use of mobile payments

Over the course of three years, MasterCard’s underlying social data fueled insights which helped to shift consumer conversations from questioning available mobile options and the security of mobile to the possibilities of enhanced experiences using digital devices.

According to Andrew Bowins, then MasterCard’s Senior Vice President, Corporate Reputation and Engagement, “Insights unlock an organization and shape culture, thinking and actions. In the age of real time communications and engagement, companies need to listen twice as hard before they speak. This is what MasterCard is doing today and in turn our ability to listen, learn and then engage has served as a catalyst for change and evolution in communications and across the way we operate as a company.”

More than tools alone, PRIME consultants add category expertise and critical thinking to deliver actionable insights: Morning Brew: What Consumers Really Think About Mobile

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