Socialcast Lets Businesses Invite Outsiders To Join Network - InformationWeek

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7/26/2011
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Socialcast Lets Businesses Invite Outsiders To Join Network

Enterprise social network adds options for including partners and customers.

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Socialcast is extending its enterprise social network software to let a company's employees selectively include partners, suppliers, and customers.

This is the first major upgrade to the software since VMware acquired Socialcast at the end of May, adding it to a growing portfolio of collaboration applications. The extended enterprise functionality, plus a new org chart feature and updated user roles are available immediately at no additional cost to Socialcast customers.

Since it was founded in 2005, Socialcast has focused on supporting secure internal social networks for corporate customers. "In the past an administrator was able to invite somebody from outside of the company into a community, but then they would be a full participant in it," said Tim Young, who founded Socialcast and was its CEO. He now service as vice president for the social enterprise at VMware. "Now we're letting you invite an outside person in a more controlled fashion."

The new External Contributors feature of the software allows individual users to selectively add outsiders as participants to a specific collaboration group within the Socialcast system, such as one for a customer focus group or a discussion with partners.

"What we're seeing in both the consumer space and the social business space is a trend to giving the individual user or the individual employee more fine grained control over their connections," Young said. "This is a little like Google+ and its circle functionality."

Although some other social software vendors such as Jive Software have products for both internal and external social communities, Young said Socialcast is taking a different approach by having one integrated system. "You can invite people in through Twitter, or through their Facebook IDs, and you can do it without creating completely separate communities," Young said.

That is not the same as offering social customer or partner portals, Young said. "We're not in the business of creating customer communities. What we want to do is allow employees to flexibly collaborate with people outside their domains," he said. Socialcast uses the software itself to support a customer council into which it invites its large enterprise customers, he said. "This is not meant to replace a giant customer community like you'd see from Lithium. This is more employee centric, employee driven."

An employee who creates a collaboration group can specify it as private, open to all employees, or open to external participants. External users will get an invitation via email or a public social network account allowing them access. The Socialcast software will display a notice on groups that are open to outsiders, so employees are warned to be more careful with what they post. The profile photos for external contributors are also flagged with a visual indicator of their non-employee status.

Socialcast is also adding a new Org Chart display, intended to make it easier to see who is who within the company and what their relationships are to other employees and external collaborators. In addition, administrative tools are being updated to support new user roles, which can be used to permit or restrict access to features such as External Contributors and Social Business Analytics.

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