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Enterprise Social Networking Tools Roundup

October 19, 2011 1 Comment

By David A. Kelly and Heather Ashton, Upside Research

The Enterprise Social Networking Market is anything but stationary. It feels very much like the Business Process Management market felt ten years ago, full of energy, new entries, and mergers and acquisitions as the space sorts itself out. We thought it would be useful to round up some of the major players in this space to help CIOs understand the dynamics of the market and how each of the vendors are attempting to distinguish themselves in a crowded space. This first segment covers some of the fresh, new faces that have helped define the social media space. Future segments will cover a few more of the trailblazers in social media, followed by some of the enterprise software vendors’ entries in this exciting market.


Yammer was at the forefront of moving the social network into the enterprise. Yammer was an early provider of microblog tools, and provided a Twitter-like interface for enterprise workers that asked the question, “What are you working on?” Adoption spread quickly, and the enterprise jumped on the social media revolution. Designed around an interface very akin to Facebook, Yammer is intended to make microblogging a core component of enterprise collaboration. As the space evolved, Yammer began adding plug-ins for enterprise applications like Microsoft Outlook to encourage the use of social networking in all aspects of business. The product has evolved to include file sharing, company directories, a knowledge base, and security and administration tools to prove its enterprise-strength abilities.

Upside Take: Yammer has tried to stay on top of the enterprise social networking wave. In an attempt to avoid being accused of suffering the “silo” effect, Yammer has added integration with other key functionality, such as an integration with Crocodoc to provide document mark-up and collaboration. It is still available free for enterprises, but many large companies choose to purchase licenses to better manage the product in-house.

Socialcast (recently acquired by VMWare)

Socialcast provides a plethora of collaboration tools including activity streams, microblogging, forums, and wikis. As we mentioned in a recent blog about the VMWare acquisition, the company has some of the most innovative social networking tools to date, and we like the Socialcast’s attempt to bring collaboration tools to the user in their familiar environment, rather than forcing them to leave a particular enterprise application to collaborate. Socialcast embeds the social functionality within each productivity application, such as SharePoint, CRM suites, or ERP systems like SAP. This enables employees to remain in their current application environment while leveraging the benefits of social networking. Users can build conversations around “objects” of interest from existing applications, such as an image of a prototype, to support project collaboration. Socialcast creates a semantic graph that enables users to build an identity online and helps managers understand the informal relationships among members of the enterprise.

Upside Take: Socialcast aims to flatten the corporate hierarchy and build an internal network of peers that are motivated to collaborate in new, innovative ways, across the organization. Positive feedback from online participation is motivating for users. Basic deployment is free. Upgrades to premium hosted and behind firewall versions are fee-based.


Signals, the renamed social media platform from Socialtext, enables the replacement of conventional, static portals with a dynamic, social-networking oriented portal for enterprise users. From its genesis providing wiki capabilities within the enterprise, Signals includes microblogging, wikis, and user profiles, instant messaging, and activity streams, all organized in a dashboard that can be IT structured and user personalized. To help users sort through the vast amount of data that exists within the corporate intranet, Signals provides the ability to search metadata and create activity stream filters. Signals provides connectors to some enterprise applications, including and Microsoft Sharepoint, and enables IT to build their own connectors to internal applications.

Upside Take: One of the early players in this space, Socialtext has evolved from early enterprise wiki provider to social networking platform with its Signals suite of tools. The company is seeking to distance itself from other pure-play social media vendors by appealing to IT with management and control functionality – up to 50 colleagues can use for free, and then IT steps in.
In the next Roundup, we’ll take a closer look at another trailblazer, Jive, as well as some of the enterprise vendors who have stepped soundly into the Social Networking market, including, SAP, and Cisco.

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