It was just about a year ago that a member of our community, and webinar guest, Clara Shih, talked about The Facebook Era (also the name of her best-selling book) and her deep experience with understanding the business, especially small business, implications of a networked world. It also turns out that this 29-year-old Stanford grad had teamed up with her freshman classmate at Stanford, former Microsoft-exec Steve Garrity, to create a brilliant new business that addresses two very important goals: bringing the disparate agents, franchisees, branch stores and contractors into compliance with corporate rules as well as arming those same local entities with social branding, content and best practices to succeed on their own turfs.
Emerging from a stealth mode of 18 months, Hearsay brings the world of social media closer to what is both necessary and real-time. As my friend Susan Scrupski (@itsinsider) noted a few months ago, social media is no longer solely-owned by "the hippies," and as its efficacy began to spread it was inevitable that the real world would intrude. Or more explicitly, as Charlene Li makes the case in her most recent book, Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead, social business is not anarchy, and while it has mandated a higher and more immediate level of transparency across corporate strata, it is still subject to organizational and business concerns.
We seem to be in the period now, if social business could be plotted on a bell curve, where we are deep into "early majority" adoption and heading to the down-slope where such concerns as compliance and effectiveness will be, of necessity, brought into corporate review of social media. Hearsay addresses this with integrated, home-grown search that alerts the governance teams of large companies of possible infractions on social platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, a critical requirement for highly regulated businesses like insurance, financial and health care. If an agent is using these social communities, the Hearsay platform both informs that agent of appropriate and compliant use, but also alerts corporate minders if the agent uses the wrong language, based on detail keyword search across those same social networks.
Hearsay is not all "stick" however. Increasingly, local agents and businesses recognize the importance of marketing their businesses in all of the different social channels, but are often at a loss at how to do it correctly. Frequently their local sites are filling with spam, which reduces the value of theirs and the corporate brand. They operate in a vacuum, don't have best practices or large-scale alignment and could really use the help. For Hearsay, it's essentially taking that support for corporations into new social platforms (much in the way corporate entities did with newspaper advertising in the past).
Lastly, Hearsay's embedded analytics (this is where Clara's background as at Salesforce, where she developed its facebook initiative, would be extra handy) allows the corporate side to access in real-time the results of "campaigns" with the local side, which is what every executive wants out of social.
Clara's vision for Hearsay was hammered during a long apprenticeship in working with businesses large and small and listening to painful stories. "Most companies of the FORTUNE 500 are structured with disparate sales forces and local affiliates. Hearsay is the first social media platform for 'corporate/local' - allowing corporate to better manage local presences, and allowing local to better incorporate best practices and content suggestions from corporate."
What does Shih regard as Hearsay's competition? Would that be Clara's and Steve's alma maters, along with IBM and others? According to Clara, "Corporate/local is still unchartered territory - many people have been figuring this out for the first time - whereas big enterprise software solutions are bloated with features, and highly optimized for business-to-business."
Hearsay launches with several marquee customers, among them State Farm, Farmers Insurance and 24 Hour Fitness, and backing from Sequoia Capital. There's considerable developer bench strength, and the company is cash-flow positive. Congratulations, Clara, you've got a winner on your hands.
Click to learn more about Hearsay.