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.

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