Filling missing social layer in Google Apps

Summary:We've witnessed the rapid rise of social networks and Web 2.0 applications in recent years, so it's inevitable these tools would eventually make their way into the enterprise realm.

We've witnessed the rapid rise of social networks and Web 2.0 applications in recent years, so it's inevitable these tools would eventually make their way into the enterprise realm.

One Singapore startup, Socialwok.com, decided to tap this market opportunity and offer what it calls, an on-demand enterprise social platform. Its CEO and co-founder, Yong Ming Guang, says the company aims to help enterprises tap social messaging tools to better collaborate and communicate across their organization.

Ming and his friends formed Socialwok in May this year, and spent the following month running beta trials with several businesses. The company is scheduled to officially unveil its platform next month.

In this post, Ming also reveals plans to integrate Socialwok's service with Google Apps, which he says is missing a social layer needed to enable businesses to more intuitively share data and documents. The Singapore startup is hoping to fill this void, but you'll have to read on to find out how.

The company's interest in Google is not incidental since Ming is also a member of the organizing committee for the Singapore Google Technology User Group, which will meet for the first time this weekend.

I read past Tech Podium posts like Donut Empire's Steven Chiew or Razer's Ryan Chua, and realized both companies are advent users of social media tools like Twitter and Facebook to do online social media marketing. They tweet on Twitter, build a fan community using Facebook pages or post brand videos on YouTube. Interestingly, Razer mentioned a significant increase in online sales following the launch of their social media marketing campaigns.

Personally, I see the growing importance of social media in everyday life as more people join Facebook and Twitter. I also see increased newspaper coverage on social media; like using LinkedIn for your next job search. Enterprises and organizations will have to grapple with the reality that their next customer and next employee are comfortable with social media. I see this as a great opportunity for forward-looking enterprises to embrace social media technologies, for both internal group collaboration and online marketing, to gain a competitive edge in their respective industries.

I started Voiceroute in 2007 as a Web application company specializing in open source unified communications with two college friends, Navin Kumar and Vikram Rangnekar. All of us use Facebook quite heavily and Google Apps, such as Google Calendar and Google Docs, for our online business productivity tool. It seemed to us that if we could use feed-based status updates to keep in touch with friends all over the world, as well as Google Apps for group collaboration, we could definitely use the same social collaborative technologies to improve communications within our company and customers. That was how Socialwok was born in May 2009.

Enabling Non-Profit 2.0 We opened Socialwok to over 80 organizations for closed beta trials in Jun 2009. One of the more interesting deployments involves the non-profit Singapore charity event, Run For Hope. To be held in November this year and organized by the Four Seasons Hotel and Regent Singapore, the annual charity run aims to raise funds to fight cancer. The beneficiary of the charity run is the National Cancer Centre Research Fund (NCCRF).

The event's organizing community of 30 people comprises volunteers. Traditionally, they communicated during weekly meetings and via e-mail and phone. They often shared large files that are blocked by e-mail filters or rejected due to the size. The organizing committee chairperson also had to use a numbering system in all e-mail correspondence to keep track of conversations and ensure everyone is on the same page.

With Socialwok, they were able to create different feeds for topics like marketing, Web site development, volunteers and so on. We helped them archive all conversations related to each topic in individual feeds, making it easy for a new committee member to get to speed quickly. They were also able to do file-sharing within the group by posting rich-media updates. In sum, they were able to organize their processes more effectively with less face-to-face meetings, and keep different aspects of the charity event progressing and every member of the organizing community on the same page.

On the marketing side, the organizing committee previously depended on traditional media like newspapers and press releases to get the word out on the charity run. Given the economic downturn, they wanted to identify more cost-effective ways to get the word out. The marketing committee used Socialwok as a group publishing platform for Twitter and Facebook feeds.

Integration with Google Apps The next exciting chapter for Socialwok is our integration with Google Apps. There are over 15 million users from 1.5 million organizations, ranging from small businesses to large enterprises, currently tapping the online office productivity service from Google. Google Apps include different products like Google Mail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, Google Sites and Google Talk.

One of the missing elements in Google Apps is a social layer, where users within an organization can more intuitively share information, calendar events and documents with other members, instead of having to go through e-mail as they do now. Socialwok aims to add this missing social layer by offering a feed-based collaboration service that integrates with Google Apps. This will allow users with existing Google Apps accounts to sign up and log into Socialwok, and immediately be able to create different feeds within their organization to share information, files, docs, calendar entries, and etc.

We are very excited about unveiling this aspect of Socialwok to the global community of Google Apps users, and will be giving a sneak preview of this feature in Singapore at the first gathering of the Singapore Google Technology User Group this weekend. We will also formally unveil the tool in San Francisco next month at Techcrunch 50, as well as the Silicon Valley Java User Group meetup. It's going to be an exciting Sept 2009 for Socialwok!

Topics: Collaboration, Emerging Tech, Google, Singapore, Social Enterprise

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