In the world of Social Enterprise vendors, everyone wants to be a “platform.” Subsequently, it’s rare to hear an ISV talk about the platform it uses to create a social application other than its own. And yet, Microsoft SharePoint often comes up in discussions of all sorts of Social Enterprise applications. Several companies are using the sharing, collaboration and workflow capabilities of Microsoft SharePoint to provide the basic underpinnings of their social applications.

Getting Work Done with Social Software

When you get down to basics, Social Enterprise applications are not about making friends or looking at pictures of cats. That’s fine for consumer social networks, but enterprise social networks are about getting work done. Knowledge workers need to share messages, conversations, files and documents, URLs and tasks in order to collaborate effectively and meet mission objectives.

Microsoft SharePoint provides most of the infrastructure one needs to do just that. It supports not only sharing but also workflows, which are becoming a more critical part of the Social Enterprise landscape.

Leveraging SharePoint to Build Social Apps

Two ISVs that have leveraged Microsoft SharePoint and its companion Microsoft Lync to create enterprise social networks are Formicary Collaboration Group (FCG) and NewsGator. Both companies provide full-featured enterprise social network products that sit atop and leverage the capabilities of Microsoft SharePoint.

Although they are different products in terms of approach and especially in terms of UI, FCG’s MindLink Social Collaboration Platform and NewsGator’s Social Sites leverage the sharing and workflow capabilities of Microsoft SharePoint, then they add a host of social features. Not only do they add new features to the Microsoft SharePoint environment, but both also wrap core platform features in a superior interface.

In the end, both vendors provide a better Microsoft SharePoint experience than Microsoft does.

A Smart Move Other ISVs Should Adopt

What is most surprising is not that someone thought to use Microsoft SharePoint to build an enterprise social network product, but rather that more vendors haven’t done it, especially Microsoft itself. Given the range of collaboration features that Microsoft SharePoint brings to the IT environment, it seems natural that more companies would build on those features rather than start from scratch. Luckily for IT professionals in Microsoft environments, some ISVs have.
Editor's Note: Tom is a columnist focused on the social enterprise. Check out more from Tom, including  Social Platforms Create Socially Enabled Applications.