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4/20/2011
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Seesmic Adds InboxQ's Twitter Question Finder

Also available for Firefox and Chrome, the InboxQ plug-in seeks out unanswered Twitter questions as potential sales leads.

Businesses Take Action With Twitter
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Slideshow: Businesses Take Action With Twitter
Social media monitoring software maker Seesmic is partnering with InboxQ, which makes a tool that mines Twitter posts for unanswered questions that can be turned into sales leads. The InboxQ plug-in, which was previously available for Firefox and Chrome, will now be available for the Seesmic Desktop, the companies announced Wednesday.

"We look for people asking questions on Twitter and then go through the process of narrowing that down to the real actionable, answerable questions," InboxQ CEO Joe Fahrner said. His message to businesses is that "the best way to engage with a customer is by answering a question for which their product or service is an answer."

Seesmic agrees. "Helping people online is the best way to find customers or enlarge your community," Loic Lemeur, CEO of Seesmic, said in a statement. "InboxQ makes it really easy to answer questions on Twitter based on search terms that are relevant to your business."

Back in March, we ranked Seesmic Desktop as one of the top five Twitter clients, citing the product's plug-in architecture as one of its virtues. Seesmic added a Yammer plug-in in March

Fahrner said the idea for his startup came from noticing how many questions posted to Twitter were going unanswered. "Although a fair number of questions are asked, very few answers actually get received. The dividing line seems to be people who have more than 100 followers--99% of the answers received on Twitter go to those people. And even those who have more than 100 followers only get an answer about 38% of the time," he said.

Therefore, any business that takes the trouble to try to provide an answer is likely to stand out. Some early users have included a Ruby on Rails developer who has attracted a big following, and more consulting gigs to boot, by actively seeking out questions he can answer.

Like many startups these days, InboxQ is offering its product for free to begin with, while looking for the upgrade path that will make it money. Fahrner said the audience InboxQ is attracting to its browser plug-ins are mostly smaller businesses that are content to use the question mining capability in isolation. Before finding InboxQ, many of them were trying to make social media connections in an ad hoc fashion.

For bigger businesses, many of whom have already established a standard set of tools for social media monitoring, InboxQ's strategy is "not necessarily trying to convince those businesses they need another tool," but rather seeking integration partnerships with other vendors. Thus, the deal with Seesmic.

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