Hearsay Helps Corporate America Get Local, and Get Smarter About Facebook and Twitter

2/3/11Follow @wroush

If you’re an ambitious store manager at Starbucks, an agent for State Farm Insurance, or even a paper salesman for a branch of Dunder Mifflin, then of course you’re setting up your own local accounts on Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter. You are certainly reaching out to customer with updates and special offers. It would be dumb not to use the power of social media to form authentic connections with your local market.

But you can be sure that back at corporate headquarters, this fact is giving some senior vice-president a panic attack. After all, what’s to stop all those local representatives and agents and franchisees from misusing the company brand, offending customers, letting their accounts go embarrassingly silent, or—even worse—getting the company into regulatory trouble?

Ever see an episode of “The Office?” I rest my case.

This is the problem Hearsay has set out to solve. After nearly two years in stealth mode, the San Francisco-based startup today unveiled a social media platform for businesses that gives big companies a way to guide the social media exploits of local representatives—but without over-mothering them.

Co-founder and CEO Clara Shih says Hearsay’s SaaS-based service is designed specifically for a breed of companies she calls “corporate/local.” Essentially, these are companies with a strong, overarching brand, but lots of local agents or store managers. The social media explosion, she says, brings these organizations “tremendous opportunities on the marketing and sales side, but also tremendous challenges that no one had figured out. How do you align your local branches and representatives around your corporate brand and industry regulation, while empowering those branches and representatives to express a unique and authentic voice? It’s a fine and delicate balance to walk.”

Hearsay’s system, called Hearsay Social, amounts to a kind of corporate front-end for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Yelp. Companies that sign up for the service—which is available for a monthly subscription fee based on the number of branches—don’t necessarily force their local representatives into becoming social-media mavens. But they do make the reps who are already active on social media use Hearsay as the gateway.

The system is built around three pillars, according to Shih: content, compliance, and metrics. In the content area, corporate managers can provide standardized templates for social media profiles—so that every State Farm agent’s Facebook page has the same look and feel, for example. They can also create national or regional social-media promotions, which local representatives can then choose to pass along (or not) as a way of supplementing their own … Next Page »

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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  • http://notapplicable jessica lucas

    Although, I’ve provided an alternative e-mail address, I still received all facebook inquires on my primary address, including one that was a virus, thank goodness I have a Mac. or I would have lost everything, trying to be considerate, I went to Facebook to try and warn them that someone on a friends site has a virus, there was nothing I could find. Next I tried going to a corporate site no such site for a mere facebook respondent like myself. If they can’t protect their site, I need to get off it fast and guess what that is also difficult to do.