Seriously, Socialcast is recognizing one of the best things you can do with a social network is say "thank you," "good job," "congratulations," "you nailed it!"--whether from manager to subordinate or peer to peer--and float that recognition publicly, in an organized way. Rypple built a business around that concept, leading to its acquisition by Salesforce.com in December. The same trend toward using social software to manage basic people process like employee recognition and performance management was a factor in the recently announced acquisitions of SuccessFactors by SAP and Taleo by Oracle.
Socialcast founder Tim Young said his Thanks application will excel through deep integration with core enterprise social networking functionality, as well as support for extensive customization. "We see this as an extension of the social graph objects we already provide to employees to collaborate in the workplace, allowing employees to recognize their peers with these really simple badges," Young said. In addition to appearing in the social activity stream, recognitions are categorized and archived on the user's profile, making it possible for managers and employees themselves to use them as a record of achievement when it comes time to discuss performance or salary reviews, or promotions.
VMware acquired Socialcast in May, converting founder and CEO Young into vice president of its social enterprise division. He now sets the direction for a family of cloud and social software products, with Socialcast as the anchor.
Young said Socialcast is not merely imitating the likes of Rypple. "Certainly, on the surface, if you look at the functionality there are a lot of similarities," he said, but Thanks supports "heavy customization, making it easier for you to tie this into a broader recognition program that already exists."
[ Want to learn social software from the best? See How Facebook Manages Its Workforce. ]
The requirements for Thanks were defined by customer conversations. For example, Socialcast customer Philips Electronics had an established program called Three Cheers, Young said. "They basically wanted to graft that onto the social graph, and so all of the badges are built around what Philips wants to recognize people for and how they want to recognize that engagement."
Because Thanks was built specifically for the Socialcast platform, posting a recognition is like posting a photo or a link--a smoothly integrated component of the social conversation--rather than switching to a separate employee recognition application, Young said. Rypple had built its own stand-alone social platform, although it could also be embedded in environments like Jive and Chatter, feeding social posts into their activity streams.
Young said tighter integration means he can be in the middle of a social conversation with someone and "contextually, send her a Thanks, attached to a specific conversation that already exists."
Social software is powerful because it provides tools "employees can use to build their identity within the company and shape it," Young said. That's really what Oracle and SAP are recognizing with their recent acquisitions. "Obviously, the large players are recognizing the value of this people-centered software," he said.
With the future of human resources software in flux, "where we have a key advantage is that we're collecting all this social graph data, which allows us to deliver a much more dynamic workforce system than vendors like Taleo provide today, where there are long periods of inactivity between 360 degree reviews," Young said.
Follow David F. Carr on Twitter @davidfcarr. The BrainYard is @thebyard
The Enterprise Connect conference program covers the full range of platforms, services, and applications that comprise modern communications and collaboration systems. It happens March 26-29 in Orlando, Fla. Find out more.