Digital/Online Marketing Communications Strategy

Talkin’ About Hearsay: A New Social Media Management Platform

By on March 20, 2011 in social media with 0 Comments

While doing research for her bestselling book, The Facebook Era, Clara Shih talked to lots of companies about how they were using social networks. Somewhere along the line Clara realized all the insights and direct connections she was making presented the perfect opportunity to start a business.

Necessity is the mother of invention

Hearsay Co. LogoClara saw there was a big unmet need for corporate-local companies, which are enterprises with many local branches and representatives, such as franchisees and agents. These companies want to maintain a strong corporate brand while also giving reps freedom to do what’s best for their local customer base. But when your reps have their own Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts it’s tough to manage messaging, not to mention compliance with company guidelines and industry regulations.

So Clara left her job at Salesforce (where she was working while writing The Facebook Era) and teamed up with several savvy digital technology pros to start a company, Hearsay, which recently launched Hearsay Social, a tool that enables corporate-local companies to centrally oversee social media activity for all of its branches and reps.

Interview with Clara Shih, CEO of Hearsay Corp.

Clara gave me look at the Hearsay Social platform. It includes tools for social media compliance, content, workflow and analytics. I was truly impressed by the platform’s functionality and user-friendly dashboard — you don’t need technical know-how to figure it out.

While taking the tour of the platform Clara and I had nice long chat. Here are excerpts from our conversation.

Your management team has got a lot of depth. How did you put it together?

Silicon Valley has so much incredible talent. Being here and having worked at companies like Google and Salesforce gave all of us a terrific network. My co-founder Steve [Garrity] and I were classmates at Stanford in undergrad and graduate school.

After leaving school we always knew we wanted to start a company together but when we graduated we weren’t ready quite yet. We didn’t have a good idea. So he worked at Fortify Software, which is an enterprise security company, and then at Microsoft, where he worked on mobile. I went to Google and Salesforce, and when it came time to start my company he was one of the first people I called, because he’s incredibly smart and has a very good vision for how technologies change.

You designed Hearsay for a specific market. Why did you choose it, and how did you cater your product to that market?

The whole point of Hearsay is to focus on corporate-local. We looked at the Fortune 1000 and there’s a huge number of companies that fit this model, which is everything from banking, insurance and real estate, to restaurant and retail franchises and direct-selling organizations like Avon or Mary Kay. Our focus has allowed us to go very deep and be very comprehensive in the solution that we provide.

We were very thoughtful about how we architected the solution. We realize, at the end of the day, the most important thing to our target audience is visibility. When you’re a corporate organization you might have franchisees and local stores feeding pages and profiles every day that you might not know about. So number one, how does corporate have visibility? And from there, how does corporate manage brand compliance?

The third thing is, as a counterbalance to the need for brand guidelines compliance, how do you empower your local reps to express a unique and authentic voice? Knowing that’s what makes social media powerful. We know cookie-cutter messages don’t work.

So we built a content workflow system where corporate marketing can come in and feed content or suggest content and campaigns into the field, and then these small business owners, these franchisees, can choose which messages and campaigns they think will resonate with the local audience, personalize it in their own words and be able to do a one-click post out to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Diagram showing how Hearsay Social platfrom enables one-click distribution to multiple social networksHow does it go all across the company system?

Basically, corporate will suggest a piece of content through our portal and then the local reps can receive those suggestions, either by email, and you can enable a one-click post from that email, or, they can log into their own portal which many people like to do because it’s a community of other franchisees in their network.

How does the company determine how well the suggested content is received?

You can see a content library of all that you’ve sent out to the field and can sort by categories, all of which are custom definable.

You can write a post and choose what region you want it to go too, and choose where it goes; to Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn. You can tag it as a corporate suggestion and it will go to a local user who will see that message, along with a link. The local user can personalize the message and then just click the link. Corporate can then see what gets a response.

Can you give me an example of real world usage?

State Farm has 18,000 agents across the country and last year they came to us [while we were in beta] and said, we realize a lot of our agents are getting on these social network sites, which is a good thing. The reason State Farm is so successful is our agents are good social networkers, and we know that these websites makes them effective. But there are challenges we need to solve. From a federal regulations standpoint there are compliance issues, so how do we protect these small business owners, these franchisees, from legal liabilities?

With insurance and banking, there’s an industry guideline called FINRA, which requires all messages to be archived in case of a subpoena down the road. That’s the motivation behind archiving. Facebook and Twitter don’t provide archiving. We do and in fact we’ve partnered with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to be able to provide the archiving. We’re the only company that has access to LinkedIn’s private message API. We’re the only company that can provide this.

And then another challenge State Farm had was small business owners find it very easy to create a Facebook page or Twitter profile but then it’s hard to maintain. As a business owner or a franchisee you’re busy enough running the day-to-day operations. You don’t have time to spend hours figuring out what to say on social media…That’s why we built this content workflow system, so the agents didn’t have to spend hours coming up with good content. Corporate marketing could do it, and it would only take an agent a couple of minutes to add it to their social networks.

A look at the Hearsay Social dashboard, compliance sectionWith the compliance part, say I’m a company that’s highly distributed. How do I manage monitoring all my rep’s posts? It would be overwhelming to keep track of every tweet and every Facebook post.

We only show when there’s a compliance infraction. We sat down with a lot of corporations that did feel overwhelmed and they didn’t feel like they needed to read every message.

Does the item show up because it’s been flagged through keywords?

Yes. They can specify what the keywords are. And we have ones that we recommend for our financial services customers, because you’re not allowed to talk about securities in a public forum. They can also choose from our standard set of filters, like for profanity.

Do you think companies that have been holding off on mounting social media campaigns due to concerns about compliance issues may now engage in social media with more confidence because of your platform?

There’s that. But there is the reality that needs to be acknowledged; which is, the corporate level may not be comfortable going out on social media, but their employees don’t feel the same way. It’s very easy to find agents and employees that are on Facebook and have LinkedIn profiles who are talking to clients and are out of compliance. That’s been a real wake-up call for these organizations.

How do your analytics help a business know what action to take once they view the metrics?

Our customers are very focused on two things. One is agent engagement and the other one is fan or follower engagement. So what they’ll typically look for is when there are spikes in agent activity. That’s usually when corporate makes a content suggestion. The agents post it and then there’s a slight lag on the fan and follower side as measured by likes, comments and retweets… The content that you put out there, you want it to be interactive and engaging. If people aren’t sharing or responding, that means it’s not resonating for some reason. Our customers use this real-time feedback to continually refine their content and campaigns.

So they can correlate response and make the connection.

Yeah… I wondered for a long time why there are so many corporate local organizations. Why are so many of these small businesses that are part of a larger corporate entity? Instead of being a McDonald’s franchisee or a Dunkin’ Doughnuts franchisee, why don’t they just start their own burger or donut place? We thought about this a lot at Hearsay and the reason is brands are extremely powerful. And not only that, a lot of small business owners, don’t know branding and packaging and operations and sales. Being part of a franchise, you get a lot of support in the offline world. So if you’re a McDonald’s franchises, every quarter you get new marketing collateral. But when it comes to the online world, there hasn’t been that same level of support. And social media in particular has been the Wild West for these small business owners. They’re left to their own devices. They’ve had no choice but to create their own Facebook page and figure out how it all works. So one way you can look at Hearsay Social is, we’re providing that level of infrastructure and local support that chains and franchisees have always had in the physical world — we’re providing the analog in social media.

Now hear about it direct from Hearsay (the company video)

Related Posts

Recommended Reading: The Facebook Era

How Social Networks Are Changing How We Do Business

Clara Shih On Ambient Intimacy and Appvertising

What do you think of Hearsay Social?  How do you see it fitting into corporate social media programs? Comments welcome.

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About the Author

About the Author: Deni Kasrel is seasoned (slightly spicy) specialist in digital/online communications. .

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