While the buzz around Twitter is well known, a number of other products, including Yammer, Intridea's Present.ly, Socialcast, and now Socialtext Signals, incorporate business microblogging into their services. Yammer, for instance, has more than 100,000 users only six months after launch, including companies with "hundreds" of employees using it for microblogging.
However, it's unclear whether businesses think there's a real need for yet another way for employees to communicate with one another, and whether microblogging is it. Many companies use Twitter for marketing, public relations, and monitoring public perceptions, but private microblogging services could have significantly different uses.
Socialtext Signals is but one piece of the company's larger Socialtext Dashboard, a personalized home page for its core wiki product that includes recent changes to the corporate wiki, RSS feeds, a tag cloud, and OpenSocial widgets. "We've delivered social messaging in a way that delivers an integrated value proposition, which will take us into different use cases than just having a room where people can have conversations," Socialtext founder Ross Mayfield said in an interview.
For example, since Socialtext Signals is integrated into other Socialtext software, whenever an employee saves a wiki page or a blog post, that information can be sent out as a message to colleagues following that employee. The integrated model also gives employees access to far richer information about their colleagues than something as limited as Twitter does.
Still, Signals remains a microblogging platform on its own. Public relations agency Voce Communications already monitors conversations about its clients on Twitter, but Socialtext Signals gives it a tool to privately coordinate public responses to things that are said on Twitter. A few other companies are using Signals to get and aggregate brief feedback about marketing materials from salespeople in the field who are unlikely to be able to send long messages. "There are some general patterns to this communication," Mayfield said. "It’s a better medium for doing a few things better than IM or e-mail, like sharing status or context and sharing links."
Yammer CEO David Sacks sees corporate microblogging as archived water-cooler discussion and quick collaboration that includes content sharing, but increasingly as part of a larger social platform. "Microblogging is just one use case," he said in an interview, echoing Mayfield. "The market we're trying to address is trying to make companies more productive by enabling them to share their work." Going forward, Sacks also wants to embed Yammer into business apps and workflows.
For now, however, Yammer isn't much more than posting status updates or messages with embedded content. Files shared on Yammer are placed into a file share directory, and employees can set up different groups to talk about different subjects. Users can send and receive messages via e-mail, text message, and instant message as well as through the Yammer site. Administrator tools control access to the network.
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