I spoke to Aaron Gotwalt, Co-Founder, VP Products, and Jesse Engle, CEO, at CoTweet today, (third partner Kyle Sollenberger was out when we spoke) and I think they’ve just found a way for Twitter to grow up as a marketing, engagement and customer service tool. It’s called CoTweet.
Their news at CoTWeet this morning is that the Ford Motor Company have just signed up to start using CoTweet – and the product proposition is simple: CoTweet powers your brand on Twitter. And of course, @cotweet is on Twitter. Who knew about Ford?
With CoTweet, you can track exchanges with customers via simple case management, assign tasks and followups for multiple individuals within your company, and automatically assign signatures to identify the individual talking on the company’s behalf. All just using a standard web browser.
At the moment, the CoTweet product is in private Beta, and I have used the service for a number of days. That has been long enough to convince me that CoTweet is a ground-breaking product that solves an simple but potentially overwhelming problem – how to use twitter in an effective way across an organisation.
CoTweet solves a real problem
Its origins are from a real-world issue within a startup – where members of a small team were stepping on each others toes trying to respond through twitter to customer queries. Different responses, no response, nobody aware which queries were outstanding. The idea to solve this went from concept to beta in a little over a month.
Companies no longer can decide whether they should be on Twitter – they need to decide how they are going to manage customer expectations using Twitter. The core problem is managing a Twitter account across an enterprise. Who has dealt with that customer enquiry? Who can deal with that product query? Can a way be found to ship or modify something in a tight timescale? Twitter is beginning to be used as a front-end tool not just for ‘inbound’ functions like technical support and customer service, but also ‘outbound’ for marketing, sales, and PR. It is becoming a holistic tool – which may be fine for the small company, but potentially a nightmare for anything that scales beyond a small team. It helps 1.0 companies get powerful 2.0 capability – easily.
CoTweet knows about scale
CoTweet is built on a scalable, cloud-based computing platform, and the founders have already been planning ways in which it might integrate with CRM systems, help desk applications, and the likes of salesforce.com central core and associated applications. The important differentiator though, is in allowing the brand to retain a human touch. It can be used to refine and improve implicit workflows within organisation, but with the objective always being focused on something very simple – satisfying an individual who has used twitter to make an enquiry, and having an individual within a company easily identified as the agent who brought that about.
Show me the money
In terms of how CoTweet plans to monetise – “the macro model is already there – but there is a lot of detail on the micro model which is being discovered in the beta testing that’s taking place at the moment”. CoTweet is evolving a Community of Practice, and recognises that using Twitter is new, and the way that people engage with it and use it is new. Their beta customers can learn a great deal from each other’s experiences – and CoTweet is working with Jerry Michalski to build up what they term ‘cohorts’ of non-competing businesses who are using their product, and are sharing best practice and experience with each other.
You might be able to help – try the Beta
What CoTweet are looking to gain from talking to The Next Web at this stage in their development is to have more European startups and corporate customers take part in their limited beta, and become involved as ‘cohorts’. They also stated their firm intention to take part in The Next Web 2009 Startup Programme and win their way through to present on stage in April in Amsterdam. CoTweet also told me they are aiming to bootstrap all the way through to a public launch with a product that people will be paying to use. I can’t see them having any problem reaching any of those three goals.
Big bird in a dark suit
CoTweet recognise that social media needs to grow up, and that services need to present themselves in a professional manner, and use professional language, in order to get serious traction beyond the early adopters. So I don’t think that CoTweets cool blue-grey imagery, so reminiscent of LinkedIn, is used entirely coincidentally. It’s a clever twitter bird in a pin-striped suit that can talk to creatives, accountants, marketing and customer service directors. The summary statement which encapsulates why I think CoTweet is a game-changing and compelling proposition that virtually demands companies use the service, is here:
Companies will use CoTweet as the core tool to engage with people through Twitter.
That may sound like wishful thinking, but for a product that is designed to scale, works well, does something nothing else out there can do, and offers a capability every company using Twitter needs, I’d say it’s more like a promise. This company is going to fly.