Jaxtr Looks to Give Social Networking a Voice
Services such as LinkedIn and MySpace are proving to be effective ways for e-commerce businesses to connect with customers and prospects. Following that trend, today a new voice-driven approach to social networking hits open beta.
Every business owner knows it: If you could just talk to prospects one-on-one, you could convert them to customers.
Click-to-chat and click-to-call features, of course, have existed for years, but now there's a new, more viral twist. Starting today you can test out a new service that attempts to combine the best of social networking with Internet-based telephony. In short, it gives visitors to your Web site or a blog a free local number to call from virtually anywhere. All you have to do is add a widget to your site, blog or e-mail signature.
Jaxtr has been in private beta testing, but now you can see and hear it for yourself as the company today announced the launch of the public beta of its service. After you sign up for a free Jaxtr account, you can link your mobile or landline phone with your online network. And while it's not strictly an e-commerce tool, it could prove itself to be a new way for you to interact with your customers. For example, the VoiceBlast feature allows you to record your own voice to automatically greet and update customers who visit your blog or Web site.
|Jaxtr's Web-based admin tool lets you manage voicemail and specify where to direct callers.|
By adding a "Jaxtr widget" to your online profile or blog, you can take calls from prospects worldwide while keeping both parties' phone numbers private. Jaxtr works with popular social networks and communities such as MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Friendster, Flickr, YouTube, Wikipedia, Craigslist, eBay, LiveJournal and Blogger, according to the company
Heading up Jaxtr as CEO is LinkedIn co-founder Konstantin Guericke. Investors, according to Guericke, include original backers of companies such as Skye, Google, Digg, Plaxo, Facebook, Flickr, Technorati, SixApart and many others.
LinkedIn's success with small businesses could be a harbinger of what Jaxtr can offer companies looking for new ways to connect with customers and potential customers.
|VoiceBlaster lets you communicate with customers and colleagues through pre-recorded messages. |
"LinkedIn has had a lot of success with small businesses," Guericke said. "Service providers such as real estate agents, accountants and recruiters were the early adopters, but many said 'I don't want to put a barrier between me and my customers. Couldn't they just call me directly.'"
For example, Guericke said, recruiters wanted to be able to call potential jobs candidates. "There was something missing with social networking," he said, "and that's telephony."
"We actually found that at LinkedIn people were putting in their phone numbers," Guericke said, even though by design there was no field for a phone number. "We said 'you're putting your phone there for nine million people to see. You don't want to do that."
Now with Jaxtr, you can put phone numbers on Web sites, blogs or e-mails and keep the information anonymous. On the other side of the privacy fence, potential customers can request information without providing any personal information. They don't need to leave a phone number or fill out a form that contains personal data.
The Jaxtr service can be used with any mobile or landline phone. Jaxtr doesn't charge you for unlimited outbound international calls from your mobile phone and also provides you with unlimited voice mails. In short, it is designed to eliminate barriers such as cost, inconvenience and privacy concerns.
|Jaxtr is designed to work with many popular social networking sites. |
In addition to VoiceBlast, features of Jaxtr include the capability for callers to send voice or text messages in addition to making phone calls, a blog widget designed specially to be placed into the sidebars of blogs, worldwide support that allows you to receive calls from people in more than 200 countries as well as the addition of thousands of direct-dial numbers in the U.S., Europe, Latin America and Asia.
Guericke said that the invitation-only private beta included thousands of testers from more than 80 countries and included bloggers, real estate agents, lawyers, doctors, customer service agents, public service organizations and others.
Jaxtr's PrivacyShield is designed to give you control on a caller-by-caller basis whether a person can reach you directly or must instead leave a voice mail. You can also decide whether your home, work or mobile phone should ring when an approved person calls. "You can have the first call from someone go automatically to voicemail. Then you can white list the nunmber [so it goes directly to you]. You might want your mother's calls to go to your direct line and your mother-in-law to go to voicemail," Guericke said.
Jaxtr also provides access to a Web-based application that lets you review and manage voice messages just as with Web-based email accounts.
Potential customers can also reach you without having a Jaxtr account of their own. After the first call is initiated, Jaxtr provides the caller with a unique and permanent number, which he or she can use to phone you in the future. Because the new number is typically local for the caller, he or she will be able to reach that Jaxtr user without incurring long distance charges on both domestic and international calls, including calls from a mobile phone. According to Jaxtr, this toll-saving feature was so popular in the private beta that many people shared their Jaxtr link via e-mail, so colleagues can call them from their mobile phones without paying international mobile rates.
Eventually, Jaxtr will be a fee-based service. Subscribers will buy a plan that includes a certain number of minutes, which they can add to if necessary. But like any social networking venture, the most important step is building the community. For now, you can use the service is free. "It's too early to talk about pricing," Guericke said.
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