Superstah! Socialtext - Customer Relationship Management

It’s funny, but there are a lot of Web 2. 0 social media outfits that aren’treally businesses. They are playpens with a business veneer. They’ve developed theirtools out of altruism, mischief, passionate interest in technology, wanting to be the best first or the first to the dance, but they have no business plan, no idea how to make money, and are not driven by capitalist mores.

This is definitely not the case with Socialtext and particularly its founder, Ross Mayfield. He’s a true thought-leader in the social media playground, but he alsounderstands that he’s in business to make money not just great tools and this perception has served him and his company very well.

For example, they are easily the most important enterprise wiki platform, with few competitors anywhere near their level. Their primary enterprise competitor is Atlassian Confluence, a formidable package and one that has more CRM connectors than Socialtext, but none have the depth of functionality or are as forward thinking.

Socialtext is the crème de la crème of wiki suppliers. Their 4, 000 plus customers include companies like Symantec, Humana, Nokia, the Washington Post even Oracle and SAP use them rather than native tools. Even more to their credit, SAP Ventures is one of their financial backers.

They are recognized by most of the analysts as the leaders in their industry, with Gartner in their October 2008 Team Collaboration and Social Software Magic Quadrant making them among the most visionary ahead of Microsoft, BEA, and even IBM. That says something, especially in the latter case.

Mission 21st Century
Ross Mayfield on Socialtext over the next few years:

Socialtext will continue to innovate around its wiki-centric platform to increase ease-of-use and simplicity of operations, as well as continuing to integrate more closely with core enterprise infrastructure. Socialtext introduced its spreadsheet-in-a-wiki, SocialCalc, and sees this opening up a new category of enterprise software. Socialtext will leverage marketing, sales, and co-development efforts by working with partners in adjacent areas such as blogging, RSS readers/servers, and other social software and networking tools.

Socialtext expects to see the collaboration and social software market increasingly converge around Web 2. 0 technologies plus social networking tools. Socialtext is going to continue to grow to integrate these tools with core enterprise infrastructures, other applications, as well as traditional collaboration tools for unified communications.

I’d like you to note the sentences that I bolded because that reflects the thinking that drives Social CRM as well as the social software and social media markets.

The Product:Socialtext 3. 0
This is an industrial strength enterprise-level product. While it can appeal to small business with its hosted edition, it is built for midsized and large corporations and has the administrative functions needed for that scale. But it is also a remarkably resilient product platform. It has pretty much all that you would expect of a wiki that needs to be integrated with other data sources. From my standpoint which, of course, means Social CRM the only thing that it lacks is a large group of prebuilt connectors for salesforce. com, Oracle, and other major CRM vendors, but the tools are there to build them if you’re so inclined.

Individual Features

  • Personalized, customizable dashboard that shows internal and external social activity
  • Dashboard templates for business solution areas
  • Profiles and user directory allow you to tap expertise and subscribe to activities of people you work with
  • Draw profile information from directories and enterprise applications
  • Easy to create group workspaces and invite team members
  • Manage user permissions and remove users;this can be done at the administrative level or the team level with a team leader with administrative permissions
  • Collaborative document editing
  • Integrated team blogs within the wiki framework
  • Comments and ratings
  • Full revision history with rollback and complete audit trail;the audit trail can be very important
  • WYSIWYG editor that has Word-like functionality but is easy to use
  • One-way or two-way links to a page, workspace, section, file, or image;access is controlled by the administrator
  • Personalized watch list to track pages, tags, people, search results
  • Subscribe to changes via e-mail or RSS, so even if you are still primitive and want to use e-mail, you can monitor wiki changes or project developments
  • Device-ready mobile access;it will auto-recognize your device
  • Offline version, allows you to read and write wiki content when disconnected and will provide you with the ability to sync with a server
  • Powerful search engine;you can find wiki pages, documents, or individuals through Boolean or metadata queries, and only those the user has permission to access
  • Tagging lets you find common areas of interest or expertise/practice and organize content
  • Reusable content by including pages;can be shared through widgets for searches or RSS subscription feeds

Enterprise Features
This is what distinguishes Socialtext from its rivals. The range of administrative functions is truly staggering. This allows them to provide the levels of security, policy management, privacy management, and integration that make them one of the few in social software that can be called world class. They have both an SaaS and an on-premise edition. They can be run on VMware which means, for those of you not in the world of the terribly geeky, virtually. Uniquely, they have an offline edition too and an open source version, which gives them the benefit of thousands of developers working on their product in the true spirit of the collaborative value chain.

They understand market opportunity with the enterprise. Connections to not include a wiki component instead they replaced it with what they call
activities, which are outcome-based team collaboration, not wikis. Social-textrecognized the market opportunity and built a connector for Lotus Connections smart, very smart.

Here we go with the enterprise features:

  • Integrate with LDAP/Active Directory and single sign-on systems
  • SSL-protected browser access
  • Password-protected RSS feeds
  • REST and SOAP APIs
  • RSS and Atom feed format standards
  • Convert content from other wikis and data sources
  • Widgets support OpenSocial gadget standard
  • Detailed reports on adoption and usage
  • Web-based administrative console
  • Centrally view and manage users and workspace configuration
  • Granular access control for groups and users

A-socialtext administrative screen

A Socialtext administrative screen (Source: Socialtext)

Actually, this is very much a culled feature and function list. The total amount is apparently infinite or close to it all philosophical implications of that statement aside. What I have listed are the ones that I find the most important to a CRM audience on either side of usage and that I can vouch for through experience with the application during the vetting process. This one is world class and deserves some consideration in your vendor selection process.

Socialtext continues to innovate when it comes to the product with their 2009 introduction of a free full-featured version for 50 users or less and an actual hardware appliance that comes with Socialtext built in. In late 2009, a mobile edition was introduced that works in any smartphone environment.

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