amrita The Social Enterprise is here in full force! Profiling 3 Toronto startups in the space

Weaving a social context into your business is quickly becoming a prerequisite for success.

Fortune 500 companies are already investing in what is now known as the ‘Social Enterprise’, wherein employees easily collaborate with one another and use social media to connect with partners and customers like never before.

The Social Enterprise promises to connect companies with their customers and employees in a whole new way. In this post, I talk about what it means for a business to be social.

I also profile three Toronto startups – Viafoura, realSociable and Rypple – that are shaping the Social Enterprise pie, one slice at a time.

There are many aspects of a business that social enterprise technology can serve, and numerous software companies have emerged in the last few years to solve these problems., one of the front-runners in bringing Social Enterprise technology to its clients, believes that:

  • 85% of companies use social media to engage customers
  • 64% of users are more likely to purchase from a company that helps them via social media
  • 27% of companies active in social media report higher profit margins

But before we get into that, I want you to check out a recent business journal by McKinsey and Company. Within, they broadly outline three types of Social Enterprises:

  • Internally Networked organizations,
  • Externally networking organizations, and
  • Fully Networked Enterprises.

You can read the definitions as a pre-cursor to reading about the three startups profiled in this post, as well to make the realization that there is much room and time for the Social Enterprise industry to mature and expand.

Let me use Salesforce and Jive Software as examples to illustrate these broad categories better. If you know both companies and their latest acquisitions/ growth strategies, you will easily see that – Salesforce is currently in a state to provide services to become an Externally Networked organization, but they are speeding towards providing services for a Fully Networked Enterprise. While Jive Software is currently in my view, an Internally Networked organization also moving towards a Fully Networked Enterprise.

As the industry matures, we can anticipate several companies joining forces and/or getting acquired to perform the functions a fully networked enterprise would. Currently however – the pie is still large and very fragmented which serves as a great opportunity for many startups to be a part of the puzzle.

First up we have Viafoura – a user engagement platform that is focused on helping digital publishers and media companies supercharge their audience interaction.

In a nutshell Viafoura helps their clients build communities around their brands and convert audiences from passive users to engaged contributors. At the moment, they are meeting the needs of large media enterprises with monthly page views of 10 million and upwards and quietly gearing up for release of v2 of their product.

I asked Jesse Moeinifar, Founder and CEO of Viafoura what he thought of the hot new metric – ‘engagement’ – and how he anticipated socially savvy companies to use it.

“Engagement has emerged as the most important measure of the health of a software product or digital media property.Digital publishers once relied solely on impressions and page views to take their pulse. In recent years, the shift has been towards engagement metrics such as interactions per visit, contributions per user and length of visit, in addition to page views. All tolled, these metrics are often called engagement, or sometimes depth of visit” says Jesse.

I immediately understood why Viafoura was in business. Media companies of all enterprises thrived on customer engagement and page views of course.

“We realize the importance of customer engagement for enterprises. In fact, engagement is Viafoura’s reason for existence. Digital publishers are masters when it comes to content production and distribution. However, user engagement is starting to be a field of study in itself and that’s where we come into the picture.”

I asked Jesse how exactly they help their clients increase user engagement.

“We offer tools and incentives to drive audience interactions, along with a powerful back-end to manage and grow that community. Viafoura is a complete user engagement platform for media enterprises that focuses on conversation, community and gamification.”

(Tip: they are in the process of on-boarding several new clients, some of which are amongst the largest media companies in the world.)

Viafoura and its fellow Ryerson DMZ startup realSociable see a transformation in full effect. While Viafoura’s clients want to capitalize on their consumer-facing opportunities in the social media space, realSociable’s opportunity is in providing a service to those companies that are looking to move beyond just media monitoring and into integrating social into their sales strategy.

Dalia Asterbadi, Founder and CEO of realSociable suggests that high-growth companies that have defined markets/ prospects, need to better leverage social intelligence to create a more productive and opportunistic sales force.

Her company realSociable compiles social insight and real-time analytics in one place, arming sales teams with a greater understanding of their client base along with a snapshot of their needs.

“Social enterprise is about managing a set of insights that lead to effective engagement and a material transaction,” says Asterbadi.  “It is the new paradigm of relationship selling.”

 I told her I agreed and that enterprises needed to better leverage all the publicly available information out there and contextualize it for their purposes, whatever that purpose may be.

“Exactly. In the case of sales – relationship is king. If you’re able to make your (sales) teams more proactive and collaborative, and empower them with rich real-time insight about their prospects, wouldn’t that make staying in touch be so much more impactful?” she says.

Ok, so you are taking engagement one step further by making it in context and real-time?

“Yes exactly. Real-time updates reap the best results. Engagement can be powerful, but it has to be at the right time in order to influence an action.  realSociable empowers the enterprise to react to pre-determined triggers, which in turn allows them to be immediately responsive and start meaningful conversations with prospects and customers. It allows them to get creative in their outreach tactics,” says Dalia Asterbadi.

Ok great, I am all for better engagement and responsiveness to customers and prospects in real-time. But who is doing the engaging? Is it not the employees of the enterprise?

What about employee engagement?

Bohdan Zabawskyj, CTO of Rypple thinks that is something enterprises need to pay more attention to. Rypple is in the business of ‘Social Performance Management’. They have turned their focus to serving what in their view is the biggest asset of any enterprise — its workforce.

Establishing employee engagement and creating a motivational and sustainable culture is absolutely essential.  A culture of engagement fosters commitment, collaboration, and creativity, all of which are essential in today’s competitive environment,” says Bohdan.

We at Rypple believe transparent communication and continuous feedback aid this process.”

Another business journal by McKinsey shows that when people feel valued, they’re motivated to work better. So Rypple created a platform that allows for empowerment of people to achieve their goals, receive meaningful recognition and a way to exchanging real-time constructive feedback from their colleagues.

Rypple believes there are three main behaviors that employees need/crave: i) recognition of great work ii) fast feedback and iii) coaching/ mentorship as applicable, and that’s what their platform focuses on.

One thing that jumped out at me was how Rypple believed that recognition, especially socialized recognition would pave the way to having highly engaged teams and boosted performance.

I talked to Nick Stein, Director of Content & Media at Rypple, and asked him what he thought of employee engagement and what value they saw in socializing it.

“We have taken a just-in-time approach to (employee) performance.We believe making the performance process more social and collaborative can significantly boost performance and engagement.”

Ok sure, but isn’t that a lot of work? Doesn’t that put extra strain on the organization?

“Not at all. It’s not about creating new behavior. It’s about enhancing existing behavior. When employees and managers communicate more effectively with one another, they become more efficient. And that ultimately leads to better business performance.”

Alright, it was starting to make sense. But I was still skeptical. Wouldn’t Rypple only work for younger, nimbler companies with younger workforces? I just couldn’t see large stodgy enterprises embracing something like this, at least not yet.

While Nick acknowledged that younger companies run by the millennial generation are naturally more open to the idea of transparency and frequent feedback at work, Rypple’s more traditional customers also see the value and engagement that comes from a more open, social, and collaborative environment at work.

Painless and effective performance management is how he phrased it. In fact, I found this great infographic they did a few months ago that tells a good story about the feedback gap in performance evaluations.

I probed further about signing Facebook on as a customer, and how exactly they used the Rypple platform.

“Yes. Facebook’s  employees worldwide use Rypple to facilitate 1:1 coaching, continuous feedback, and recognition between their regular review cycles. They also use Rypple to run their semi-annual performance summaries,” confirmed Nick.

And how is that working out, I asked Bohdan Zabawskyj.

Facebook has been extremely encouraged by the use of Rypple. They are looking forward to new features being introduced over the next few months that will facilitate recognition and collaboration,” says Bohdan.

I suspect that having Facebook as a customer has done more than that for Rypple, but that’s another story. (Tip: they recently integrated with Jive Software, so now Jive’s social business platform allows Jive users to send meaningful messages of thanks to their colleagues.)

So there you have it people. Three Toronto companies, all tackling the Social Enterprise in their own way.

Before content was king. Now context is king.

I see the future end goal of the truly social enterprise to avoid silos at all costs, and to deliver both content and context in a single experience—across multiple channels—in order to enable seamless, continuous collaboration with customers, prospects and employees.

To me, the Social Enterprise is the technology stack thats enables a social business. But to be a truly social business means having massive cultural changes to go with that as well. CxOs need to know that they can better position themselves and their organizations, by embracing the Social Enterprise and furthering their overall business agenda.

The three staple CRM pillars, Sales, Service and Marketing will be first impacted by the Social Enterprise, with other aspects of the business such as HR following closely.

This space may take a decade to fully mature. But when 900-pound enterprise software gorillas like Salesforce and Jive make it their agenda, you can be sure that firms all around the world will start to take notice.

So gear up to engage with customers and employees in ways that are more social and mobile than ever!

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6 Responses to The Social Enterprise is here in full force! Profiling 3 Toronto startups in the space

  1. Sharel Omer says:

    Hi Amrita,

    This seems like great tools :) thanks for sharing and supporting local biz: )

    Indeed social for enterprise is a much needed space, and happy to check this apps.

    Some enterprise, when it comes to social mange it like sn SMBs…i think that altimeter group defined ±40% of all enterprise as being “beginners” when it comes to social media :)

    What are the corporate KPIs for social media, what is the ROI etc… all are not yet clear…

    The big win, i think will be to see a product to goes both ways, give value to both SMBs and Corporate… a real challenge… but i think it’s needed…

    Keep on rocking! gr8 post, and thanks on behalf of this startups, who got the unique opportunity to be reviewed by you :)


    • amrita says:

      Thanks for your comment Sharel. I can imagine many enterprises being new to social media.

      But being social, collaborative, responsive and transparent starts from within. Which is why i think Ryyple is amazing for what it is advocating for.

      As well, there is a HUGE opportunity for players like realSociable to integrate with corporate CRM systems and ensure that enterprises are getting the intelligence they need from the social web in order to make smart every day decisions. This space is going to blow up and i suspect marketing authomation companies such as Eloqua, Marketo etc will all get sucked up into this space.

  2. Shawn JP says:

    Once again Amrita you have outdone yourself! I love this blog post (wish you would write more).

    I had heard about Rypple before and it looks like they are doing great things. I was especially happy to see that other startups are also taking a swing at innovating in this space. The two other Toronto startups you have profiled here look interesting – I wish Jesse and Dahlia much success and look forward to tracking their progress.

  3. Hi Amrita,
    Thank you for recognizing us in your post – it is exceptionally positioned and truly addresses where companies will be driving their usage of social in the coming years. Based on some of the comments and general feedback we have received, Social Media is here, but how it affects the bottom line will be a clear objective and obstacle for companies if they don’t evolve outside of their service or communications teams. All the companies you mention enable organizations to be more productive, in-tune and relationship based.
    We look forward to taking organizations into full force –

    Thanks Again Amrita!

    Dalia (and the realSociable team)

  4. amrita says:

    Oh and by the way, Salesforce announced the acquisition of Rypple on Dec 15th 2011. You can see the full press release here.

  5. Ying says:

    Amrita this is great. A lot of sites cover startups, but not many cover early-stage startups in Canada, so I am glad someone is doing so! I also appreciate that you have almost written it from the consumers POV – often something typical journalists dont do. They have one voice while you write in many. Please cover more startups as it allows us all to see whats out there and learn from one another. I will be sending you a seperate note shortly as I would love your perspective on my ultra early-stage startup!

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