Social media presents an opportunity for connecting directly to an audience via a variety of social channels. But for multi-office brokerages and franchises there’s an added challenge: How do you keep the message consistent to customers?

If each office or agent is out there on individual Facebook pages, then the possibility for inconsistent messaging and off-brand communication is a definite possibility.

This is especially true in an industry like real estate, where every agent is, in effect, an individual brand (that’s why their picture is always bigger than the company logo on their websites).

And most innovative agents aren’t likely to wait around for the office to put together a social media strategy.

On the flip side, maintaining all of these social channels is work. It takes time to source and create content to share with an audience. Facebook, Twitter and other social channels are a beast that needs constant feeding and constant content.

For offices and agents, this can be a challenge — you’ve got to have time to actually work with customers, after all.

There are many social dashboards out there. But most of them are focused on the individual worker and have limited collaboration and oversight tools. So the franchise or office that wants to help out the innovators doesn’t have a way to do that well.

Oh yeah, and then there’s the legal department: Maybe there are some things you want to be a little proactive about in terms of what kinds of words go out through your branded social profiles.

Or maybe you want to make sure that there’s an archive of social communication.

If you are part of a tiered business organization with distributed offices and agents, Hearsay Social may be a useful tool.

Corporate vs.  local

One of the basic paradigms that Hearsay Social is built around: There is a corporate office that has some sort of control over local offices. Insurance agencies, personal fitness chains, hair salon chains and things like that are examples in other industries.

Basically, that applies to anything in which there might be a larger business unit with managerial responsibilities, and a local office that actually interacts with customers.

If you’re one of those innovative front-runners, ahead of everyone else in your organization, chances are that Hearsay Social isn’t going to do much for you.

In fact, it’ll probably irritate you, because much of what Hearsay Social does is help put control of social media messaging back into the hands of corporate.

For organizations where the brand is paramount, putting the messaging power back in the hands of the people responsible for managing the brand is probably good. Or it’s at least as good as the people managing the brand.

Hearsay Social has some features that allow corporate to control messaging.

1. Filtering content: Corporate can set up a filter to keep local from displaying profanity on a Facebook page, for example. Hopefully no one really needs a feature like this, but I’m sure it helps the folks in the legal department to sleep easier.

2. Suggesting content: Hopefully brand managers are making things that are useful for the local offices. Hearsay Social includes a feature that allows corporate to suggest messages that can be pushed out via the local office’s social profiles. The local office can then personalize this content for the local market.

Some room to grow

I love knowing that there are some analytics tools built into Hearsay Social. But most of them are still very channel-focused and basic. This results in something that is sort of like an aggregation of all the other social analytics tools you have in place elsewhere, but not as insightful.

Channel-focused analytics (number of followers or actions per channel), while common because they’re easier to make, don’t really help drive much decision-making. It would be nice, especially in a platform designed to aggregate communication channels, to have analytics focused on something other than specific channels.

For example, it’d be nice to see analytics that are wrapped around the idea of specific content and the success of that content.

Marketers and corporate communicators have far more control over the content they create and distribute than over the specific channels the messages are distributed through.

Or, of course, the holy grail: analytics focused on the customers themselves, regardless of which channel they are using to communicate with the company.

Unless the analytics start to approach these areas — the content or the audience — I wouldn’t give up my current tools in exchange for the analytics in Hearsay Social. However, the sheer convenience of getting less data, but all in one place, might be a little tempting.

Also, the eat-your-own-dog-food approach that Hearsay Social takes with describing the product makes it a challenge to evaluate or recommend. The website coyly points you to the company’s Facebook page, Twitter account and LinkedIn profiles for more information about the product.

Interestingly, none of those channels are any better at helping a prospective customer understand how or why Hearsay Social is useful. In this way, Hearsay Social outlines the challenges of doing meaningful work in each of the social channels:

  • Twitter: 140 characters at a time, and only when a human is monitoring the Twitter stream. forces the customer to learn only in frustratingly short chunks on someone else’s time schedule, with obstacle-ridden access to images or video.
  • Facebook: When you’re looking to evaluate software, the customer doesn’t yet know whether to like it or not. Without liking the page, the customer doesn’t have access to any more than a simple one-page bullet-list brochure.
  • LinkedIn: Knowing who works at the company is part of a decision-making process. But it isn’t the only thing, at least in most situations. Again, a brief paragraph or two about the product isn’t enough.

There’s also no information on pricing or how it’s calculated. There is a consultation process involved with configuring the software (which is a good thing), so maybe it’s impossible to figure it out ahead of time.

The website doesn’t have a mechanism for posing questions (other than blog comments), and I wasn’t going to "like" a product I haven’t personally tried, so I asked about pricing via Twitter.

A little over three hours after asking via Twitter, I got this reply: "We don’t disclose our pricing, but if you know of a company that’s interested, have them contact"

I was able to get a brief tour of the product from Clara Shih, Hearsay Social’s CEO. This helped me get a look at the work flow of the tool, which is clean, simple and nice.

Hearsay Social spent some time keeping the user interface clear of distractions, and that will make it easier to use. Shih didn’t, however, disclose anything about pricing. Maybe it’s one of those things that if you have to ask then you can’t afford it.

Despite my gripes and the big question of cost, Hearsay Social looks like a very capable dashboard tool for organizations built around the corporate-local paradigm, and it appears to be especially useful for organizations concerned about messaging compliance.

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