IN Daily Opinion/Column

Socialware could bring B-Ds, large RIA firms into the modern world

Dec 11, 2009 @ 4:14 pm

By Davis D. Janowski

A social media intermediary arrives on the scene

A new company, Socialware Inc. — and its first two services — came out of startup stealth mode yesterday. Socialware is the first company to provide a middleware approach and solution for helping companies of all sorts to turn on, as well as control, social media applications including LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

As founder and chief executive Chris Richter put it during an interview with InvestmentNews back in September: “Our goal is to turn public social networking platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter into enterprise-grade channels for communication and collaboration.”

Socialware.com trumpets the availability of the company's first two applications, Risk Manager and Social Marketer. Free versions of these two services are now available after a brief registration process on the company's website and a brief exchange of files and information.

Risk Manager

Risk Manager is aimed at addressing many of the compliance and regulatory issues confronting businesses that allow social media usage with the outside world. The free version of the application allows administrators at a company to turn on or turn off many of the features enterprises find questionable on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, and archives user-generated content for these applications that can in turn be aggregated and exported in XML format.

For example, on LinkedIn, users of Risk Manager have the choices of individually allowing or blocking the following features: All access to LinkedIn, access to user pages, applications, groups, messages and search. Control of 23 such features is currently available on Facebook and 11 on Twitter.

The free version of Risk Manager is limited to 25 users and 10GB of data storage.

When a company administrator signs up they will receive two spreadsheet files from Socialware to be filled out and returned.

The first is a user details file that requests the name, e-mail address, password, role and group information for the users a company wants to enable. A second spreadsheet file provides the features in all three applications that you want to enable or disable. These features can be individually turned on or off on a group by group basis for up to three groups per company (for example marketing, sales and IT).

By contrast, when a company or organization works with Socialware to implement the full enterprise version of Risk Manager, its administrators receive full access to the control panel directly through Socialware instead of the cumbersome current method of exchanging files.

“We took that approach [the file exchange for free versions] for the sake of expediency; we wanted to get to market quickly and realized that we would have to do a lot of work on our end,” said vice president of product strategy and marketing Chad Bockius, adding that this process itself would become automated in the coming months.

“We are working with two of the top insurance companies in the nation and one of the largest consumer banks to deploy our services, as well as several companies outside of financial services that are publicly traded companies,” he said. While he declined to name the companies, he said more information should be available soon.

With the full enterprise version companies get additional features including content and workflow controls that allow administrators to route content for review and approval prior to posting, message quarantine that allows for the scanning and capture of posts that violate policy, unlimited storage of social media posts, search capabilities for that content, and content and user analysis tools.

Social Marketer

The Social Marketer product focuses on something that has become an issue as social media and networking has moved from home and into the workplace: distinguishing personal from professional content. This application allows users to tag content as personal or professional, supports multiple user accounts, helps users embed content directly on their site, and archives content. The free version is limited to a single user and 1GB of data storage.

In form, the Social Marketer application appears as a toolbar sitting at the top of the social media application in question and allows users to toggle between being in professional mode or personal.

“Small business owners and owners have discovered that the content they are producing is living only on the social media site itself and can't be leveraged or controlled, so with this product our goal is to provide the end user with that control to decide which content should benefit the company,” said Mr. Bockius.

Social Marketer aggregates that professional content produced on the social media sites into a feed that can, in turn, be used by and directed out to their own company websites.

Additional insight, hints at pricing, and the future

Product strategy master Mr. Bockius said that Socialware is not yet ready to formally publish enterprise pricing yet but the earlier discussion with chief executive Chris Richter hinted at future ballpark pricing.

Pricing for enabling the most basic set of features would likely be in the neighborhood of $5 a user per year while for advanced enterprise installations it might fall somewhere around $15 to $25 per user a year.

Both men said that since many large enterprise deployments might have in excess of 10,000-users there was room for negotiation.

Mr. Bockius said that the company's plans for the future ultimately would allow for developer access to Socialware's platform so that the specific needs of individual institutions could be tailored. In addition, company's that fully embrace the platform will have access to a wealth of usage data that is being tracked and archived that could in turn prove very important for determining future business and product strategies.

Currently available on the site are a whitepaper entitled Embracing Social Technologies in Regulated Industries as well as a Social return on investment calculator.

While Finra, the Securities Exchange Commission and other institutions continue to slowly wrestle with the issue of how to contain, control and regulate social media those at Socialware see themselves and their technology as a flexible intermediary that can adapt no matter what is ultimately decided.

“We see ourselves as an enabling company — the two options today when it comes to social media are either to open the floodgates or completely lock it down — we are allowing companies to see that there is a third approach” Mr. Bockius said.

For more information or to sign up visit Socialware online.

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