At RSG, we’re big fans of scenario-based software selection. We maintain that there is no “best” product but rather a best-fit product for your business scenarios (a.k.a., use cases). As enterprise social software initiatives are maturing, both customers and vendors are increasingly realizing that while “a Facebook for the enterprise” may be fun for a while, greater benefits lie elsewhere. For instance, integrating social features in routine business processes and workflows. Or taking specific business functions and trying to “socialize” them.
An interesting social application that targets the corporate internal communications use case is Newsgator’s Internal Communication Solution (ICS). ICS is an optional module built on top of Newsgator's flagship Social Sites software, enabling corporate communications teams to send customized messages for different groups of internal audiences. Messages can be promoted (i.e. highlighted, or made “sticky”) and delivered based on employee timezones. While these features are to be expected, what’s noteworthy is that you can perform some sentiment analysis and track conversations that may have been spurred in the company. Many corporate communications teams feel they are shooting arrows in the dark and this feedback mechanism can be useful and help them fine-tune their employee communications. All caveats about the inconsistency of sentiment analysis and related technologies still apply here.
By the way, while on the topic of internal communications, I should note here that VMWare Socialcast offers “Town Hall”, which as the name suggests, enables online executive-employee communications, alongside accompanying social-networking-style conversations.
Coming back to Newsgator ICS, another notable thing is its use of the vendor's “Tiles” UI pattern widget, which lets employees filter their message/notifications. Activity streams, particularly in a large enterprise, can quickly become unwieldy and overwhelm the user and any information-organization schemes that can keep things under control for employees are welcome. Of course, many employees may chose to filter out those official corporate messages... Note also that Newsgator is not unique in this regard – other vendors like tibbr also provide Tiles-style widgets.
While I discussed only the internal communications use cases here, our collaboration and social software research evaluates vendors against many other use cases and application scenarios.