Social business software vendor blueKiwi is doing its best to make a splash in the United States. With a firm footprint and enterprise customers based in Europe, the company recently set up shop in San Francisco, and is now offering free versions of its software to gain traction.
BlueKiwi launched its Social Business Hub product in December, a platform suited for community managers and the maintenance of multiple internal and external communities. Now blueKiwi has come forward with Web 2.0 updates to its hub, a best practices destination for community participants, and a free version of its software. The free edition includes one external community that allows for unlimited external members, 10 internal community managers, and unlimited internal groups.
Erica Lee, blueKiwi's vice president of marketing, says that the free version, while slightly less feature-filled than the blueKiwi enterprise edition, has a lot of depth. The version includes community management aspects that individuals would not find in other free community providers. "We want people to have all the functionality," Lee says, "We want people to start to understand community management." Lee emphasizes that there is so much more to community than just starting a forum and dumping customers into that branded bucket.
BlueKiwi's Social Business Hub includes features such as microblogging, internal collaboration wikis, and social profiles. The company just introduced a profile sync capability that allows users to connect their Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn profiles in their blueKiwi community profiles. Additionally, blueKiwi has announced an online community called Fruitful Conversations dedicated to discussing the topic it knows best -- community management.
Gartner analyst Nikos Drakos says what blueKiwi is doing increasingly well is linking together the various types of communities. There are a number of vendors that support the three main categories of communities:
- Internal employee networking,
- External, but private, customer communities, and
- External and public communities.
"The opportunity here that is being pursued by several specialists is how do you connect them?" Drakos says. An example would be bringing an issue that surfaced in an external community into an internal employee network for discussion.
Bluekiwi, Drakos says, has evolved since Gartner's review of the company last year. "The main emphasis ... was on social software in the workplace, and the concern was these internal communities and networking," Drakos says. "Now the new emphasis is on supporting the whole spectrum of these conversations -- and in helping customers to create and support external facing communities." Drakos says an important trend that is beginning to surface in communities is how to link external communities -- rather "wigitize" communities -- elsewhere on the Web.
Another notable trend, Drakos points out, is with social analytics. With bkStats, community members can see statistics on a user's activity. Lee says bKStats is the key to understanding the value of a conversation. She says the stats are helpful in two instances:
- To see the impact of a conversation: For instance, bKStats shows if a lot of people respond to a comment in a certain amount of time.
- To identify the experts: Through tagging of content and conversations, Stats helps community members identify influencers and superusers.
Drakos says he expects to see more. "There's a lot more that is being planned around social analytics," he says. He anticipates that such analytics will be used on the community member's behalf to discover and navigate and filter content and resources, but also by the community sponsor to understand through sentiment analysis what is going on with certain products or issues.
Despite calling blueKiwi the "new kid on the block," Drakos insists that blueKiwi has a good track record and the vendor's future roadmaps assure that the fundamentals are in place. He mentions that he is looking forward to see a few interesting things coming soon from blueKiwi including reputation management and recognition badges.
As for the freemium model, Drakos says it's always an experiment, but there will likely be customers that will find value in it. And if those free edition customers have good experiences, there's always a promise that they will want to upgrade to the enterprise edition. Drakos notes that the social business software market is cluttered with a lot of vendors offering a lot of functionality, but blueKiwi has managed to hold his attention. "The competition is fierce but [blueKiwi] is doing the right things to get in there."
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