Socialtext, a Web 2.0 vendor that has sold social software (primarily wikis) to businesses for internal collaboration and knowledge management, officially launched Socialtext People (enterprise social networking profiles) and Socialtext Signals, an application that allows business users to share short messages (in 140 characters or less) inside the enterprise like consumers do on Twitter, the microblogging service.
Those new additions, coupled with Socialtext's ability to integrate both enterprise and consumer-based content into one secure dashboard (akin to iGoogle), will make it an attractive option for businesses looking to capitalize on Web-based social oftware applications, analysts say.
Socialtext Signals takes the spirit of short messages you might see on Twitter and brings them inside the enterprise walls so colleagues can broadcast information to each other about things they're working on and what content they're reading or editing.
Socialtext Signals is geared at allowing users to share content and actions in the workplace securely, says Ross Mayfield, Socialtext's co-founder and president. Just as importantly, he says it was designed to do something Twitter can't: provide context for business users.
"Using it [Signals] internally, we've learned how different usage is from Twitter, not just because it is more private, but because it is in the context of a company," he wrote in a blog post about the product. "The social patterns of what people say and share has taught us a lot about potential use cases. Now in private beta with Socialtext customers, Socialtext Signals will provide an integrated user experience across Socialtext Workspace [wikis], Socialtext Dashboard [iGoogle for the enterprise] and Socialtext People [internal social network]."
Another problem it could solve? Email overload, says Alex Jefferies, an analyst with the Aberdeen Group. "Companies want to try and scale back the use of email as their primary communication tool," Jefferies says. "It allows people to follow feeds from one another while cutting down on inbox hell."
Socialtext People provides a template for users to share biographical information (as you would in a Facebook profile, for instance), but the real upside for businesses is its ability to track activities that people do (such as update a wiki or read a document) and stream that to people's profiles.
The emphasis on providing this context and automatically feeding information (providing they subscribe to it) could help bolster enterprise social networking adoption, which has been sluggish. Typically, adoption has been poor because users can't be relied on to feed information into corporate social networks manually, making them static. If content is fed into the network automatically, however, data is constantly updated and provides a richer user experience.
Socialtext Dashboards blends both consumer and enterprise content by allowing users to select widgets like they would on an iGoogle page.
An iGoogle like interface for the enterprise, Socialtext Dashboards allows users to add widgets to a central page displaying both enterprise content (such as document lists or wikis) and content they consume on the public web (such as YouTube and news headlines). According to Aberdeen's Jefferies, this should help with workers who expect to mix their consumer and enterprise technology diets in one unified view (something indicative of younger workers especially).
"They are so accustomed to using these technologies in their personal life and they expect them in the enterprise as a result," he says. "They see the benefits of these kinds of social media."
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