Bloomfire Review – Connect employees and share knowledge
There are two mission-critical things that every corporation has to deal with: sharing digital assets and answering the questions of employees and customers. Neither of these tasks should be as difficult, time-consuming, or as intimidating for employees as they are — especially since 99 percent of the time, the ultimate goal of these activities is to teach and learn. This is where a service like Bloomfire comes in. Bloomfire strives to simplify knowledge management for sales and customer service teams. In this Bloomfire review, I’m going to be testing the app to see if it lives up to its claim.
I’ve signed my firm up for an account to test factors like ease of use and reliability, but also to see if it performs admirably from the perspective of both the business owner and the employee. Read on to find out if Bloomfire is the tool you need to simplify your knowledge management and enable your sales and service teams.
Bloomfire Review – About the Company
Bloomfire is headquartered in Austin, Texas, otherwise known as the “Silicon Hills” of the United States. The company was founded in 2010 and acquired by its current CEO, Craig Malloy, in 2011. Craig has many years of communications experience, as he was previously the CEO of LifeSize Communications and Via Video. Bloomfire already has more than 150,000 active users across more than 350 customer organizations worldwide. Bloomfire focuses primarily on mid-market companies and its go-to-market strategy includes a 14-day free trial and entry-level pricing starting at $250 per month.
Main Functions of Bloomfire
Bloomfire is all about sharing and communicating knowledge with your employees and co-workers. The company differentiates itself in five ways – simplicity, content creation, content curation, people, and analytics.
Bloomfire offers four different user roles – Owners, Admins, Authors, and Learners. Owners and Admins have access to everything, including branding customization, user management, analytics, and a slew of other high-level features under the settings drop down. Authors can use Bloomfire’s content authoring and sharing tools to contribute content, while Learners can simply view content, ask questions, and comment on the contributions of others.
To author content in Bloomfire, it all starts with the Contribute button in the top navigation bar. From here, you can publish a post, ask a question, or create a series. When you publish a post, you can either create a new piece of content using a simple, rich text editor that does not require any special technical skills or create a video using the built-in webcam or screen recorder. I found all three of these tools to be simple and intuitive. The webcam and screen recorder tools do depend on Java, so keep that in mind.
I found the ability to share existing content very easy. You can upload or drag and drop most file types from a folder on your computer. If uploading very large files (like HD videos) I would recommend not using a wireless connection. It will slow down the upload time pretty dramatically, but this is more of an issue with cloud software in general and not exclusive to Bloomfire. The last content sharing feature that I checked out was the ability to share web links. There are a couple of ways to do this. The first is to paste or type a url directly into the web link field. Once you’ve done this, Bloomfire automatically populates the title, description, and thumbnail for you – it’s a similar experience to most social networks today. The other way to share links is with what Bloomfire calls their Bookmarklet feature. The first time you share a link, you will be prompted to drag an icon to your bookmark tool bar. Once you’ve done this, you can simply click on the icon from any web page and it will post it back to your Bloomfire without having to leave the web page you’re browsing.
In all, the content creation tools in Bloomfire are easy to use and pretty lightweight, which for most line of business professionals is a must.
Content curation in Bloomfire is dependent upon the people using the application and their interactions with content and documents. Each contributor is responsible for adding a title, description, tags, and categories to their posts, which are used for the application’s search capabilities.
Bloomfire’s content is curated into what the company calls “Feeds.” There are three Feeds that you can toggle between from the applications homepage. The first is the Most Recent feed. Second is the Most Popular feed. Both of these are self-explanatory The last, and most interesting, is Your Feed. Your Feed delivers relevant content to based on your interactions with the application. Rather than manually customizing what content you would like to see, the application learns what is relevant to you based on people you follow and groups you’re a member of. What I like about this approach is that if my interactions change over time, the application automatically adjusts as opposed to having to manually change my preferences or settings.
Unlike traditional knowledge management solutions, Bloomfire brings people to the forefront of their knowledge base offering with social features, such as a Q&A Engine and Groups.
The Q&A Engine gives you a place to ask questions and get answers. Questions are public to everyone that has access to the community, but you can ask a specific person or group to chime in if you know they might have the answer. Answers can be given in various ways by embedding everything from text and documents to presentations and videos. I found this to be a very intuitive experience and different than any other that I’ve seen.
Groups help smaller groups of people share information in a virtual space. Bloomfire makes it easy to opt-in to groups and see what is being contributed and shared. For example, a company could have a group for each department, region, or product line. The one thing that could be a sticking point for some is that groups are open, meaning everyone that has login credential to a company’s Bloomfire can freely join any group and see what’s being shared. I think this is a great way to make knowledge available to everyone, but companies with cultures more focused on hierarchies and titles could find issue with this.
Bloomfire has the analytics that you would expect – page views, contribution views, top questions, top posts, etc. The differentiator for Bloomfire is the company’s approach to gamification. While most social applications have gone with a badging strategy, Bloomfire has created leaderboards.
There are three leaderboards on the analytics page in Bloomfire – Aces, Producers, and Bookworms. The Aces leaderboard includes all of those people who are making contributions that others are viewing, commenting on, and giving Hi-Fives to. In other words, contributions that others find valuable or interesting. Producers, on the other hand, are people who are simply making the most contributions. Bookworms (my favorite) are those people who may not necessarily be contributing, but who are consuming content and absorbing tons of knowledge. I’ve heard these people be called “lurkers” in other contexts, which I think is a negative connotation for people who are simply trying to learn. I like Bloomfire’s positive spin on this.
Benefits of Using Bloomfire
Bloomfire’s main benefit lies in its functionality. Offices with remote employees are going to find a lot to like with Bloomfire. As an integrated knowledge solution, Bloomfire is one of the best. It’s also one of the most forward thinking: the app isn’t just about sharing knowledge, but it’s about making your workplace friendlier and more social.
Its secondary benefit is its simplicity. Bloomfire is focused on making a great product that’s easy to use. Even though its feature list is substantial, Bloomfire isn’t difficult to use. Its interface is streamlined to the point that they’ve even built mobile apps for iPhone, iPad, and Android. Every app is easy to use, and supports notifications to make communication as easy as possible.
The Basics: What Does It Look Like ?
I have to say that the Bloomfire user interface is elegant yet simplistic. It’s a little Pinterest-like, which is a leap for a B2B application but I think this will help line of business professionals adopt the tool. It doesn’t look anything like your typical business software – and I think that’s a good thing.
Support from Bloomfire is one click away. You can immediately email a personalized support ticket straight to the Bloomfire staff, or you can view their own knowledge database. Of course, the knowledge database looks just like a Bloomfire newsfeed. When a company relies on their own service’s infrastructure for their databases, you know they’re walking the talk. Bloomfire is doing just that, and it’s very refreshing.
Bloomfire doesn’t have a free forever option. They’ve opted to offer a 14-day free trial. For companies who need to enable their sales teams, answer customer questions faster, it’s probably well worth the money. Pricing starts at $250/month for 25 users.
The Bottom Line
We have seen in this Bloomfire review that it is a solid offering for businesses that need to connect their employees and share knowledge. Not only is it ease to use and extremely simple to set up, but it also has the potential to save companies thousands of dollars in time saved, new business earned, and repetitive communications avoided. Highly recommended for medium and large companies alike.
Ratings: ease of use 5/5, features 5/5, value 5/5
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