SocialText says that social is not just a feature, it's a layer. What's the difference? Read on.

For a company that started out offering a simple wiki solution, SocialText (news, site) has come a long way. CMSWire had the opportunity to speak with Alan Lepofsky, Director of Product Marketing at SocialText about their view of social in the enterprise and SocialText's relationship with everyone's favorite enterprise platform: SharePoint.

It's All About Signals

Yes, SocialText started out with a wiki product. But it's about a lot more than that now. It's about intranets, dashboards, microblogging and it's about the activity stream.

Signals is probably what the social software vendor is best known for today. It's a microblogging app and an activity stream all in one. And it's where the concept of the social layer is clearly demonstrated.

As Lepofsky explains, social is not just a feature that you tack on to your business systems, rather it's functionality that needs to be integrated into the underlying processes, making it a natural extension of how you work.  


The Social Layer

Integrating Activities & Events

SocialText started pulling activities and events into the activity stream from what was happening inside their wiki. As they started working with customers who were using solutions like SharePoint, Salesforce and ERP systems, they realized the events that took place inside these systems also needed to be pulled into the activity stream.

The two big integrations SocialText has done to date are with SharePoint and With Salesforce, changes to leads and contacts are broadcast into the Signal stream. Updates are broadcast not only to people using Salesforce, but also to those who don't, making the information available to wider audience.

For SharePoint, SocialText has turned static events, like updates to documents, comments, sharing and etc into dynamic conversations within Signals. SocialText even supports the SharePoint security model, so you only see the broadcasts if you have permission and your access to any documents mentioned are based on your SharePoint permissions. Also nice -- getting notified of SharePoint events on your mobile through the Signals application.

You can even take a calendar event and build a conversation around it. Broadcast the meeting, take notes and have back channel conversations all within the stream, but also attached to the calendar event itself.

Filtering the Stream

All these events pouring into the stream along with microblogging can make for a very large and unwielding stream of information. Information overload has been discussed within the context of activity streams for awhile now.

As we add more and more information into the activity stream, will it loose its true value? It will if not managed right. SocialText does understand that the stream needs to be filtered to make it useful. A robust security model helps here, as does the ability for users to manually select to post their updates as a Signal into the stream.

With Signals, you also filter your updates by people you follow, workspaces you use, activity only and groups you work with. So you aren't always looking through everything all the time.

(Editor's Note: also read IBM Says Merge your Email into the Activity Stream)

Staying Relevant in the Enterprise

Lepofsky told us that SocialText has spent a lot of time working with customers on the use cases, understanding the real business problems. And they don't just add features for fun. They look at the pattern of what a feature does and try to understand how it translates into the work process. If it does, they implement it.

As enterprise work to better collaborate, the activity stream is going to become an important element in collaboration strategies. If implemented right, as part of the work processes, it should provide many benefits.