Is Facebook ready for business? That's a question that's been bandied about for years as a growing number of companies have hoped to leverage the popularity of the social networking site that has exploded to more than 500 million users worldwide.
Enter Hearsay with a social media management platform it says makes Facebook far more palatable to IT with compliance and management features lacking in other services. The new Hearsay Social also provides full integration with the LinkedIn API.
The news is the public unveiling of the service, which actually hits the ground running with a number of blue chip customers in tow and big name investors. Hearsay co-founder and CEO Clara Shih created the first business application for Facebook in 2007 called FaceForce that pulled Facebook profile information into the Salesforce CRM system. She's also the author of the recently updated book "The Facebook Era."
"Every conversation I had while developing FaceForce and writing the book reinforced the idea that Facebook is like the Internet was a decade earlier and it's changing the nature of relationships," Shih told InternetNews.com. "There are tremendous opportunities, but big companies say they need better tools to automate their use of social media and integrate with their existing systems. They get excited by the opportunities but compliance and other issues are a daunting challenge, especially in regulated industries."
Hearsay Social provides a dashboard to manage content, workflow and compliance as well as analytics. Shih said the service is particularly well-suited to companies that have franchises and branch offices that want to provide a local flavor to their Facebook content, but also must comply with corporate rules and leverage content from corporate and other users in the system.
"We found it's really easy to create things like a Facebook fan page, but it's extremely difficult to maintain with fresh content and that reflects badly on the brand," said Shih.
Compliance and other features of Hearsay Social like FINRA and SEC monitoring appear to be making financial companies a little more comfortable with social media, as State Farm and Farmers Insurance are two early customers.
Hearsay also announced a collaboration with LinkedIn that will include sales and marketing efforts and integration between the two platforms designed to ensure compliance to customers, regardless of whether their local representatives access LinkedIn from work, home or a mobile device.
The 24 Hour Fitness chain is a good example of a company that already jumped on the Facebook bandwagon with 100,000 fans for but was struggling with how its 400-plus fitness centers could best leverage the social media platform.
24 Hour Fitness said it's utilizing Hearsay Social's workflow features to approve, reject, or suggest content (including posts to Facebook walls and promotions) to all or a subset of locations. Club managers can view the suggestions, personalize and localize them and then one-click publish to their Facebook wall and Twitter account. The system's compliance module also let's the health and fitness chain filter profanity and personally identifiable information that may appear on wall posts.
In addition to its product unveiling, Hearsay noted that it's received strategic funding from Sequoia Capital and added the investment firm's senior partner Bryan Schreier to its Board of Directors. "Corporate/local businesses can now use the social graph to connect central marketing departments with front-line sales and service teams to help them build relationships with the customer base," said Schreier.
Other investors include Michael Abbott, vice president of engineering at Twitter; Steve Chen, co-founder of YouTube; Dave Morin, co-founder & CEO of Path and formerly of Facebook; and Aaron Sittig, product architect at Facebook.