Social CRM Mainstreaming Continues With Hearsay

February 3, 2011
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I just finished up doing some “judge work” for this year’s Gartner/ 1to1 Media CRM Excellence Awards in the category of Social Engagement. I can’t get into any details as the winners will be announced at next month’s conference, but I can say I was really impressed with what companies are doing today in order to improve the customer experience, and to amplify the voice of the customer throughout their organizations.

I just finished up doing some “judge work” for this year’s Gartner/ 1to1 Media CRM Excellence Awards in the category of Social Engagement. I can’t get into any details as the winners will be announced at next month’s conference, but I can say I was really impressed with what companies are doing today in order to improve the customer experience, and to amplify the voice of the customer throughout their organizations.

In my last online column for Inc.com I wrote about how I think 2011 will be the year Social CRM goes mainstream. One of the reasons I feel this way was reinforced by what I saw in the companies up for the Gartner/1to1 award – more companies of all sizes are taking a more multidimensional, strategic approach to social tools and channels. Instead of being focused on one or two aspects – or acting strictly in response mode out of fear – you are seeing more comprehensive strategies being developed to integrate social with traditional to create better processes.

In order for Social CRM to have a chance to go mainstream, companies in traditional areas like franchising, professional services, financial services, etc. will have to find ways to implement a central strategy that extends to their local representatives. They’ll have to be able to do so in a way that insures a cohesive message is delivered at the local level that reinforces the overall brand, while insuring each message coming from individual representatives is compliant with regulations (corporate and governmental).

Someone who has focused on this issue the past couple of years is Clara Shih, author of the very popular book The Facebook Era. Today Clara and her partner Steve Garrity are launching Hearsay – a social media platform for corporations/organizations with local branches. Hearsay was built to assist organizations that have local presences to be able to assist those local teams/individuals leverage the social web to engage their customers and prospects, while staying compliant with important rules and regulations. In fact the cloud-based app puts compliance, workflow, content management and analytics on top of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.hearsay-social.jpg

According to information in the Hearsay press release, independent research shows that while 64% of insurance and financial professionals have adopted Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn for personal use, only 21% use social media for business. Of those who said they do not plan to adopt social media for business use, more than half volunteered that company policy, compliance and security concerns prevent them from doing so.

I know personally I have spoken to many insurance agents, financial service professionals, and others in regulated industries who have said many of the same things that would seem to back up the numbers above. So if a service that can enable professionals in these areas to leverage social channels to create more engagement opportunities – while automating compliance management – it will go a long way mainstreaming certain aspects of Social CRM.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Clara, and while the official launch of Hearsay is today, they’ve actually been working at this since 2009. And based on what I’ve seen so far, I can tell they used that time to really understand the challenges of they call “Corporate/Local” enterprises. Two of the main issues to these kinds of organizations are definitely compliance, and maintaining a corporate brand while empowering local agents to fully engage customers and prospects on social networks. And from the local side – be it branch or individual rep – the challenge is not only being compliant in their interactions, but also creating enough content to grow a meaningful social presence. So Hearsay is looking to solve challenges on both sides of the corporate/local relationship.

Among other capabilities, the Hearsay Corporate View has a dashboard for brands features message archiving, keyword flagging and filtering, workflow and approval capabilities. Distribution of professionally created campaign and content suggestions can also be published, which individual branches and reps can tailor to local preferences. With the Hearsay Local View, a user can simultaneous post suggested content and branded tabs (such as corporate marketing campaigns, contests and videos) to Facebook, LinkedIn and/or Twitter with one click.

Along with the launch announcement (which includes the mention of $3M in venture capital being raised) Hearsay also announced that companies like State Farm, and Farmer’s Insurance Group have already began using the service.

Because of the large number of organizations that fit the Corporate/Local description, I think Hearsay has an opportunity to have a significant impact on the adoption of social into organizations where compliance is a major adherent. I’ll be featuring a conversation with Clara as part of my One-on-One conversation series over at SmallBizTrends.com. I’ll also have more to say on how I think Hearsay will impact the mainstreaming of Social CRM in 2011 for my next Inc. column. You can learn more about Hearsay by going to http://www.facebook.com/hearsaysocial.