Use your < > keys to browse more stories

Interview with Guang Ming Yong – CEO of Socialwok

socialwok_one_590x

Socialwok, which is developed by a team led by CEO Guang Ming Yong, aims to provides enterprises the same communication tools that Internet users have become comfortable with when connecting with friends and family. A video overview of SocialWok can be found here. Ming shares with us how SocialWok can benefit businesses, employees and developers below.

Could you share with us what Socialwok is?

Socialwok is an on-demand enterprise social platform for organizations to use rich media feeds to collaborate more effectively within and outside of the organizations business processes and manage their social media interactions with the world better. Think Facebook + Twitter for Business with social media management and collaboration capabilities

Socialwok federates and integrates with various social media networks (Facebook, twitter, linkedin) and popular web services like Google apps, salesforce, scribd, slideshare and youtube. Socialwok includes a REST API and application framework for third party developers to create applications like Wokberry – Socialwok for Blackberry (http://www.socialwok.com/blackberry), a Blackberry mobile clients.

Replacement or complement to existing collaboration and knowledge management systems used by companies? How will integration occur with such existing systems? Will splintering of information across email, wikis, and enterprise social platforms like Socialwok be a problem?

Our target audience of small medium businesses typically don’t have any collaboration or knowledge management system. Socialwok as a social group collaboration and social media management platform is a new category. Hence, we intend to be a new tool with integration with existing systems like LDAP, Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) on the backend and integrate with Microsoft Outlook on the client side. We are more excited about integration with popular web services like Google Apps, Salesforce and etc. Recently, we are quite excited about Google Wave. We intend to incorporate the Google wave APIs and functionalities into Socialwok and extend our platform tremendously from day one launch of Google Wave.

Socialwok is not meant to replace wikis or email. Each of these communication tools have their own pros and cons and serve different purposes. In fact, we leverage email for event based notifications in Socialwok. We see Socialwok as a new way for enterprises to collaborate that will in fact get members of an organization to share information more.

How can companies benefit from using SocialWok?

Socialwok empowers organizations to embed social media into their DNA and adopt community approaches to business processes ranging from online marketing, brand management, knowledge management, customer support to enterprise collaboration. Below are some key value propositions for organizations to use Socialwok

i) Collaborate Faster. Smarter and with More People
Organizations can use Socialwok to share information, discuss ideas and bring products to market faster. With Socialwok, organizations can do this not only within the company but also with their customers and suppliers. No more unread emails and mis-communications

ii) Improve Transparency and Accountability of your business processes
With Socialwok, organizations can collaborate with external parties like customers and suppliers professionally and with peace of mind. All your collaborations on Socialwok with external parties are archived and search-able for regulatory requirements if needed.

iii) No Capex. Pay As You Go Software As A Service
Socialwok is a Software as a Service (SaaS) enterprise social collaboration solution. No software to install. No upfront license fees and no annual maintenance fee. Just pay when you use. It’s always the latest and greatest version.

We are targeting small medium knowledge intensive organizations and businesses globally. Verticals include law, finance, technology software, education and government.

socialwok_two_590x

Facebook and Twitter are informal ways of communicating. Does it make sense to have an application (i.e. Socialwok) to formalize the informal?

The importance of social media is growing everyday as more people join Facebook and Twitter. Enterprises and organizations will have to grapple with the reality that their next customer and next employee are comfortable with social media. Hence, enterprises and organizations will have no choice but adopt social media into their business processes like internal enterprise collaboration or marketing. However, consumer social networks and blogging services like Facebook and Twitter respectively lack administrative, privacy, security and enterprise specific features that are required for business level use.

Here is an example of privacy specific feature of Socialwok. Socialwok provides network administrators an administrative dashboard where a company can specify access of its own social network to a range of IPs and VPN networks. Our administrative dashboard also provides companies with ability to pre-screen, filter and approve any content that is queued by employees to be published to the outside network and to the public.

Does Socialwok allow users to delete updates?

Yes, Socialwok allows users to delete updates with their Socialwok private social network.

How does the deletion of updates work with auditing of correspondence internally and externally? For example, if I send an email, even if I delete the email, there is proof I sent it as long as the receiver does not delete his or her copy. Also, the mail server might have records.

Each user can only delete the update he or she has created. For paid subscription accounts, we keep an archive of deleted updates for a certain period of time. If the user accidentally deleted his or her update, they can still recover the update. In addition, Socialwok has email integration where we generate email notifications that will contain the update info in the email. Hence, if the user has email notification turned on. He will ensure the benefits of update information archived in emails too.

Has there been any comparisons be made with Microsoft Sharepoint? What differentiates you from your competitors like Yammer?

People have mentioned Socialwok against Microsoft Sharepoint and other enterprise community portals like LotusLive and JiveSoftware. Socialwok is quite unique in providing group collaboration and knowledge management (file sharing, knowledge crowd sourcing) focused around the concept of rich media status feeds. This allows Socialwok to provide enterprises with ease of use and intutive social networking features that is similar to their experiences on consumer social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Simply put: Socialwok is the Facebook + Twitter for Business.

In addition, Socialwok is also offered mainly as software as a service (SASS) enterprise social collaboration solution. There is no software to install. No upfront license fees and no annual maintenance fee. Just pay when you use without worry of whether the backend infrastructure can scale. You will always get the latest and greatest version. This is a key competitive advantage for us.

As for other enterprise social competitors like Yammer, Socialwok is an application platform centered around private social networks. Third party developers can use our Socialwok APIs (application programmable interface) to create applications that leverage the rich media status feeds in the organization. For example, we have the Wokberry – the Socialwok mobile client for the Blackberry. Blackberry mobile users can access and post status feed anytime and anywhere. Socialwok will be able to offer such applications to our users through the Socialwok application store that list all free and paid third party applications.

The description for Socialwok has the words Facebook + Twitter. Is there any legal issues in using this trademarks for Socialwok’s branding?

We use this description because people understand what social networking value proposition if provided by Facebook and the micro-format publishing functionality of Twitter. Socialwok brings together enterprise group collaboration using social networking technologies and social media management using the microblogging format. Hence, people always get it when we say Socialwok is Facebook + Twitter for Business. Both Facebook and Twitter are very focused on the consumer and they currently do not apply themselves in area of the enterprise.

There are no legal infringement of trademarks here as we respect the trademarks of Facebook & Twitter as stated in our trademark policy at the bottom of the site. We acknowledge the trademark rights of Facebook & Twitter as shown in the link at our site.

Socialwok still seems to be offering the same service as Yammer. Would you agree the key is partnerships and developers? How can developers profit from working with your platform (i.e what are the numbers like)?

Yammer focuses mainly on group collaboration for closed private network. On the other hand, Socialwok believes that the internal private network should be porous to external web services and information. I would summarize our three key competitive advantages as – application platform, support communities and integration with web services.

1) Socialwok has a full REST based application and widget platform architecture where third party developers can easily and very quickly create full applications like wikis and widgets like dynamic Google new feeds that changes based on the trends of an organization’s social media feeds

2) Our app platform allows us to have 2 supporting communities of third party developers and professional services consultants. Hence, yes developers are key but professional service consultants are also important as they leverage the applications in the platform to customize Socialwok for different verticals.

3) Socialwok also integrates at a deep level with popular web services like Salesforce and Google Apps; users can use Gmail to view office pdfs and ppts directly from their Socialwok accounts. Socialwok combines enterprise social collaboration with social media management that federates with third party social networks like Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin. This opens up innovative knowledge mash-ups where an organization’s social media collaborations are augmented with trend analytics and recommendations from Google Search and Twitter Search; marketing manager for MyApplePie LLC has a post about the nutritional value of organic apples in the company’s apple pies that can be published to MyApplePie LLC’s Twitter and Facebook pages. This post is also augmented with a Twitter chart showing number of times keywords ‘organic’ and ‘apple pies’ are mentioned together with list of twitter accounts active in this topic area.

What are the additional administrative features and applications a company gets with paid subscription?

Our free accounts are different from our paid subscription by 3 areas; administrative, customized applications and dedicated support. Our paid subscriptions accounts have additional administrative features that come with the admin dashboard. I have already outlined some key administrative features earlier on. We provide dedicated support with a well defined service level so that enterprises can have peace of mind so that they can depend on the Socialwok service for their critical collaborative and social media marketing needs. Our paid subscription users come from various industries like banking, finance, law, design and others. When they sign up for Socialwok, we wil provide our paid subscription users applications from our app store pre-customized into their social network environment so they get the best customized industry experience when using Socialwok

What are your marketing plans and go-to-market strategies in order to get the word out on Socialwok to your targeted audience?

Given the social media focus of Socialwok, we intend to leverage social media marketing and our own tools to get the word out to organizations and enterprises. We have a facebook page() and twitter page (http://twitter.com/socialwok) to get the viral word of mouth message out to the web 2.0 technology community.

We will have 2 supporting communities for Socialwok; developers and professional IT system integrators. We will grow the Socialwok application ecosystem of third party developers and professional IT system integrators. Third party developers can leverage our free platform API and app store. Professional IT system integrators can use the different applications listed on our app store to customize the Socialwok application experience of their clients for each verticals. A law firm will use Socialwok differently from an IT company.

We will also be reaching out to strategic technology companies like Google and large IT services companies to partner with us for specific opportunities like introducing Socialwok to large organizations and the government sector.

On a final note, share with us a little about your thoughts on entrepreneurship. What advice do you have for other aspiring entrepreneurs?

From my personal experiences over the last 2 years:
i) Startup is a team sport. Choose your team very carefully.
ii) Difficult and painful decisions will have to be made. Be strategic about it.
iii) The team has to be passionate about the mission and other members. This has to be sustained in good times and bad. Team must always have the eye on the ball.
iv) Plan for a marathon. Have fun during the journey.

Editor’s note:
There is a sense that employers feel that sites like Facebook and Twitter are time wasters in the workplace. Will that lead to a reluctance to employ a similar model of communication for internal purposes? Or will they recognize the comfort with such models among their employees and shift to it?

What do you guys think?

From an employee’s point of view, will you see the use of another platform for communication as a burden on your capacity to manage or will such platforms provide distinct advantages over the use of email?



Facebook Conversation

comments

Tags:

Did you enjoy this article? Consider becoming a TiA Premium subscriber. At $9.99/month, TiA Premium brings you exclusive access to our weekly newsletter, a one-page roundup of each week’s must-read Asia tech news from all over the web. TiA Premium also brings you exclusive deals and discounts that make your subscription pay for itself. Click here to find out more.