What's Your Enterprise Social Networking Style?

* Company: Socialtext

* Headquarters: Palo Alto, Calif.

* Employees: 50

* 2010 Revenue: Not available (company is privately held)

* CEO: Eugene Lee

* What They Do: Socialtext adapts consumer collaboration technologies such as social networking, microblogging and wikis for enterprise use. It targets deployments of between 500 and 10,000 users, and its customers include the American Red Cross and General Motors.

The Pitch

Socialtext's eponymous suite is designed to let organizations improve collaboration by adapting for the workplace applications made popular by Web 2.0 companies such as Facebook, Google and Twitter. "Our value proposition is to help break down the natural silos of communication and sharing within organizations," Socialtext CEO Eugene Lee says.

Socialtext components--social networking, blogs, wiki workspaces and other tools--can be used by themselves, but, Lee says, they are most effective when meshed with third-party enterprise software. This can be done through prebuilt connector modules, such as those for Microsoft SharePoint or Salesforce.com's CRM suite, or through custom-built integration using Socialtext's Connect platform.

The company says a popular use for its platform is as a "social layer," which lets users interact and share data across multiple enterprise applications.

The Catch

The market for cloud-based enterprise social networking and collaboration suites is crowded both with specialists such as Jive Software, Box.net, Yammer, NewsGator and Zoho, and bigger vendors such as Microsoft, Cisco, Google, Novell and IBM.

The offerings from those companies and others all have the same goal--to improve workplace communication and collaboration using Web 2.0 technology--but they vary somewhat in their feature sets, focus, strengths and limitations. Meanwhile, enterprise application vendors such as SAP are baking social networking features into their software. IT leaders have to do their homework to decide which vendor fits best with their company's needs.

"You should be solving a business problem," says Rebecca Wettemann, a Nucleus Research analyst. "Without a clear business purpose and clear policies on how it's used, [social software] risks becoming as much of a productivity sink as Facebook."

Whether your organization will benefit more from creating a Socialtext social layer across applications or from adding social capabilities to individual applications depends on your ultimate goal, she adds.

The Score

Forrester analyst Rob Koplowitz says Socialtext is doing the right things to maintain value for its customers by aggressively adapting consumer applications such as Signals, Socialtext's version of Twitter for the enterprise, and by focusing on integration with other enterprise applications.

Last year, the American Hospital Association (AHA) deployed Socialtext to inject new life into its 10-year-old intranet.

"We want our intranet to eventually become the one-stop-shop portal for all employees, so that when they arrive in the morning and go to their dashboard, we can deliver business intelligence reports, content, RSS feeds, videos and updated information, all in one location," says Jack MacKay, CIO and vice president at the AHA.

He says it's simple for 450 end users to maintain wikis and workspaces and to publish content via the blogging and discussion forum applications. MacKay says he's also encouraged by Socialtext's product-development efforts, including a VMware-based virtual appliance he deployed, which the vendor maintains and upgrades remotely.

This story, "What's Your Enterprise Social Networking Style?" was originally published by CIO.

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