Publisher's Outlook

Anana Enables Social Networking Dial-Tone

By Rich Tehrani, CEO, Technology Marketing Corporation  |  November 01, 2010

This article originally appeared in the November 2010 issue of Customer Inter@ction Solutions

It was only a matter of time – after all, it has permeated so many aspects of our lives – until social networking would be integrated with telephone service like never before, enabling carriers to generate revenue by tapping into one of the most popular phenomena on the planet.

I got an email from Dave Tidwell (News - Alert), CEO of Anana LTD, which connects users between 18-30 with next-gen phone service, allowing Twitter messages and Facebook (News - Alert) status updates to be integrated into telephone calls. The company has a new service called its4u, allowing users to call a phone and hear the latest social network updates before even leaving a message. Imagine location-enabled tweets that are read to callers via TTS, allowing them to know where users are when they call.

As Tidwell says, it seems like a simple concept, indeed, but requires a very detailed integration to converged messaging, applications brokerage, voice and media platforms and some innovation in the voice user interface to pull it off. This is a mash up of Alcatel-Lucent’s (News - Alert) Converged Messaging System, Messaging Applications Broker and the Genesys Voice Platform with Anana speech application framework. It’s coded in .Net and delivers rich VoiceXML (News - Alert) with integrated Nuance Speech recognition to describe the unique user experience on each call.

At least one of the carriers working with this service is enabling Facebook wall integration of voicemail messages. If you are under 30, you probably think this is cool; if you are over 30 you are probably horrified. Remember, there really is no privacy anymore, but most users seem to be OK with that.

Tidwell explains this is fun and exciting, and telephony is boring. He is right. Will consumers pay for such a service – maybe – probably – and this concept may become as popular as text messaging over time. What is really interesting is the carrier response according to Tidwell is excitement with uneasiness about what this new innovation could mean for them.

The enterprise market is excited as well. Imagine that when a call center gets a call, a company’s Facebook promotions and tweets can be read – thereby promoting these social media channels and increasing social CRM benefits a company receives.

With so many upsides and no downsides I can see, Anana could be leading an entire new category of social networking, telephony integration which could usher in a new era of innovations in communications and potentially revenue for those who embrace the idea.

Is This What Social CRM 2.0 Looks Like?

One recent conversation about social CRM that has stuck in my mind is someone telling me that, once they find their company mentioned on a social network, they aren’t sure if they should answer or partake in the conversation. The concern had to do with not seeming creepy from a user-privacy perspective.

My feeling is companies do need to get involved with their online communities and become part of the conversations to share their points of view. So, the first part of social CRM is listening and the second part is using analytics and responding when needed.

What is interesting to note is how technology may alter the face of social CRM based upon a chatbot developed to negotiate via tweets with global warming skeptics. @AI_AGW is where the bot can be found and it seeks out skeptics and battles them with links to scientific sources.

Every five minutes, the program searches Twitter for a few hundred phrases and, when one turns up, it answers the messages it believes are anti-global warming in nature. The program answers the same or similar repetitive arguments with different canned arguments designed to make others think a real person is behind the tweets.

It is only a matter of time before this sort of technology is adopted for commercial use. For example, if I am at a Starbucks complaining about the length of a line, perhaps a chatbot should apologize on behalf of the company and offer a coupon or a link to an app that would allow me to order a drink while in line and pick it up without waiting to talk to a cashier.

Over time we will start to see more and more companies answering the tweet, so to speak, and coming up with sophisticated products to help companies listen to, analyze and respond to Tweets without the need to deal with staffing and training a team. Of course, as this happens we can also expect a suite of services which allow anyone to program social networking bots to push their point of view. As this happens, we can expect social networking bloat on a scale of the spam many of us receive in our inboxes – in fact, it may become worse.

One prediction I feel confident making? Expect a new wave of spam filters of the future focused on separating the wheat from the social chafe.

Rich Tehrani is CEO of TMC. In addition, he is the Chairman of the world’s best-attended communications conference, INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & EXPO (ITEXPO (News - Alert)). He is also the author of his own communications and technology blog.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi