How companies can stay social without writing a single thing

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Who doesn’t want to find the perfect match — even at work?

The recession has created a new way of matching workers — primarily freelancers — with businesses that need their expertise, even if for short bursts of time and without the worker ever stepping foot inside the company.

The technology underpinning such matchmaking is dubbed “human cloud platforms” — digital platforms that let companies and workers get projects done in super-efficient ways.

Businesses were expected to spend $1.6 billion last year, a 60 percent increase from 2012, on the work performed through the nation’s 70 online staffing platforms, says staffing industry analyst Andrew Karpie.

More than 90 percent of the spending comes from small businesses.

A Chicago company is using a human cloud platform to give the little-guy business owner affordable ways to do around-the-clock live chat and social media marketing.

The monthly subscription service aims beyond posting a Facebook page; it creates, publishes and syndicates content that freelancers write specifically for each business. Subscriptions start at $59 a month and are billed annually.

Three-year-old Tempesta Media, which has raised $225,000 in the past two years from Chicago-area angel investors, aims to solve two problems at once: give mom-and-pop businesses new ways to reach customers with updated social media, and hire freelance writers to ghost-write blogs, press releases and marketing material for the businesses.

Tempesta created a technology platform that uses adaptive-learning algorithms to figure out which writers have the experience, expertise and writing style to fit each business client. Tempesta monitors the writers for plagiarism and other potential liabilities.

The goal is to revolutionize the way businesses acquire content to post online, says company founder and CEO Michael Marchese.

Hence the name Tempesta, which means “storm” in Italian, says Marchese, who previously started companies to develop markets for Web domain names and to match manufacturers with spare parts in an online marketplace.

Writer wannabes for Tempesta must do assigned stories that editors review and grade. The editors hire those who score high grades and tell the writers who don’t make the cut how to improve.

The process separates Tempesta Media from other sites that choose writers by crowdsourcing or by requiring the small business owners to sift through thousands of writer applications, Marchese says.

Tempesta pays 7,500 writers to create stories, blogs, tweets, posts, press releases and other content for an undisclosed number of clients across 135 genres and industries.

Tempesta’s latest update is the company’s partnership with live-chat firm LiveChime, which charges entrepreneurs and small businesses $149 a year for as many chats as they can get.

The businesses place a LiveChime link on their marketing sites — whether it’s Facebook, an online classified ad or a discussion group on the local newspaper’s website. The link takes readers to a LiveChime Web page that connects them to the business. If no one is at the business, LiveChime takes a message.

System users range from home inspectors to gift creators to real estate agents, Turner says.

Turner’s live-chat service shows Tempesta Media’s content anywhere the live-chat link is placed, expanding the content’s reach worldwide. So even when a Web surfer clicks on the chat button, the live link pops up on top of the content.

LiveChime boasts 137,000 customers, with pending contracts for 1 million more with customers like UPS Stores and NTT Verio, a division of Japan’s major telecom carrier, NTT Communications.

“We have leveled the playing field without requiring small businesses to become marketing experts,” Turner says.

Tempesta Media has its challenges, too, such as facing a growing number of competitors, analyst Karpie says.

Another tricky part of the human cloud is to satisfy both workers and businesses, especially when no direct relationship exists between the worker and the company paying for the work, Karpie says.

“How can the human cloud engage the writers? Support the best talent? Provide the workers with the tools and capabilities that make them more efficient?” he says.

The companies that succeed will beat their rivals by offering solid value propositions, he says.

ABOVE: Tempesta Media CEO Michael Marchese, left, and DJ DeWitt, content services specialist.

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