Friday, March 27, 2009

A Twitter CRM Layer for Business - Microsoft, Ford, Intuit

It's not just big business that wants to maintain relationships using social media tools like Twitter. Keeping us all connected can turn into hard work if we don't use smart tools. Mashable reports a private Beta testing Cotweet (I've asked to join) - an intriguing new tool for Twitter. The CoTweet dashboard, has a similar UI to standard email inboxes. Business can set up custom search panels, similar to TweetDeck, view streams of replies and direct messages, as well as select an individual twitterer to get a view of their stats, conversations, and make internal notes to share with team members.

Each tweet in any of the stream views (even the search panels) also has an assign task icon that lets a team member quickly assign a follow up action, with an appended note, to another member on their team. CoTweet, currently in private beta and specifically designed to help businesses maximize their Twitter ROI, tweaks the Twitter experience to match that of a more sophisticated CRM solution allowing companies to manage multiple accounts from a single dashboard, support multiple editors for each account, track conversations, assign roles, and create follow-up tasks.

Let's extend the thinking for a minute to virtual teams and event based organisations like CTUB, BarCamp and other social phenomena that might be temporary or project based. Cotweet has a list of on-duty company twitterers. Users can specify if they’re on duty or off, and other team members can access this list and view on-duty Twitter account assignments. Plus, on-duty staffers will receive individual or batch email alerts any time there’s a reply or direct message to a Twitter account that they’re responsible for managing.

The multipanel display enables all team members are able to get a global view of Twitter activity across multiple accounts. That means each individual can see the conversations and actions that are happening around tweets, and is a convenient way to prevent duplicate actions.

CoTweet’s also leveraging the power and knowledge of twelve big name brands — think Ford, Pepsi, Best Buy, JetBlue, Sprint, and Microsoft — in their CoTweet Cohort advisory panel. Each of these brands are actively testing the tool free of charge and participating in bi-weekly conference calls to help guide CoTweet’s iterative path. CoTweet also currently has around 700 businesses using the tool in private beta, and plans to launch to the public in a few months. The site will use a subscription-based model with plans that factor in the number of Twitter accounts and CoTweet users.

Obviously, CoTweet’s approach to giving businesses a better Twitter experience is something that Twitter could replicate and charge for. Mashable reports though that Jesse Engle, CoTweet’s CEO, says he has close ties to people at Twitter and isn’t too concerned about this week’s Twitter paid service news. Concerning the possibility for overlap, he says, “sure it’s a risk, but our best guess is that they’re not getting directly into the space.”

This may jut be the start however. Other tools like peoplebrowsr can handle groups and multiple profiles from Facebook and Flickr as well as Twitter... and do it for no charge.

Here, for example, are streams fo #canberra and #bcc2 runing alongside my personal twitter stream. Peoplebrowsr alows us to maintain groups and conversations based on our #tags, and link them to our facebook profiles. This is a developing tool area that will prov dramatically empowering. Let's watch this space.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Resilient Nation Strategy for Australia.

A new Google group has been founded by Andrew Boyd et al. to support the development of Resilient Nation Australia. For those of us in IT watching the horror of the 2009 bushfires in Victoria unfold, this represents something we can do to help prevent such an appalling death toll in the future. The UK has a similar project. What sort of framework will ensure that this is ordered but dynamic. The key to successful resilience lies in democratisation. Central control responds too slowly in true disasters and lacks resilience, although central support of communications can assist. Even with central support of communications, the content must be local to ensure relevance and speed.

What a cycle structure like this helps clarify is the difference between what and why. There are many actions in a contingency plan that can be taken, especially if there is planning. The investment to make those options available, however, needs to be made ahead of time, and have a clear basis. Pre-planning also allows decisions regarding escape routes and evacution options to be assessed more quickly and clearly because the criteria have been set.

Every pass of the cycle can add new Resilience strategy aspects. For many communities, the first will be raging bushfires followed closely by floods. The strategy will address communication plans and identify infrastructure such as web sites, radio channels, SMS and dedicated twitter signons. These requirements will fall naturally out of the design.

The resilience action transition phase basically means that infrastructure, training and communication is put in place. The only way this will be effective is if each focus or subcomponent has its own iteration of the cycle. Registering Twitter IDs for emergency services will only take a short while. Building websites may be quick, but content needs to be sourced, probably Service Level Agreements (SLA's) between organisations agreed (even if the service level is 'best effort'), and operators need to be trained. This timeframe is still shorter than construction of shelters or breaks. Therefore these actions need to be de-aggregated into an Agile process - work on what you can as fast as you can.

Resilience operation includes maintenance, and also application in the field - if required. Testing and continuous improvement are important aspects of this - but the most critical remains community awareness and involvement. Current technological support of business processes allows distributed, delegated actions that permit local community responsiveness (and therefore effective early action) that can still be aggregated into a high level picture (that permits efficient allocation of macro resources).

This project is just kicking off, and ideas will mature quickly.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Tractor kills Drummer

Olle Hemingson is a Swedish musician that decided he didn't need a drummer if he couldn't find someone to keep the rhythm right. He solved his problem with a tractor. I thought it was an old David Brown, but it is an old Volvo (of course). What else will we see in bands?

Will the tractor develop a fan base? Will it give an exhaust print as autograph. Come on Australia and USA. We can't allow this skill gap to grow.

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