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Socialcast Taps Into 'Freemium' in Enterprise Play

There's an old sales adage about not leaving money on the table, but in this Web 2.0 world, some of those old saws don't apply. The latest to get on the so-called "Freemium" bandwagon is enterprise social network provider Socialcast.

The company released the latest version of its social networking platform for business earlier this week as a free Software-as-a-Service (Saas) offering. Also new, a paid on-premises version.

"Now companies have the option to deploy an on-premise solution behind the firewall under their control," Socialcast CEO Tim Young told InternetNews.com. "We feel the majority will stay with SaaS, but there are companies that place a very high value on their [intellectual property] and security and this lets them hook up to single sign on and LDAP if they choose."

Socialcast already offered its service for free to the first ten users in a company and the incremental cost was fairly modest for every user beyond ten -- $1, per user, per month.

"It was pretty much a no-brainer for us," Young said. "The more we talked to clients and where they saw value, it became clear we'd need this free component to achieve what we wanted to do.

"Everyone in enterprise 2.0 sector is facing two things: one, trying to change human behavior, using tools outside of traditional e-mail and inboxes. Second, these kind of tools are causing a lot of communication disruption as more employees start using wikis, blogs, IM and activity streams."

What's inside version 6

Young said the free version is a complete microblogging service à la Twitter, designed for the enterprise that includes administration tools and basic site customization.

New features in version 6 include what Socialcast is claiming is an industry first, a true, real-time track feature that lets users customize activity streams based on subjects, people, groups and topics. There is also enhanced e-mail integration.

Analyst Gil Yehuda said Socialcast is positioning itself to be more functional than another competitor that offers a free version, Yammer, but not as heavy as Socialtext.

"Socialtext is a full featured [Enterprise 2.0] platform that now includes the Socialtext Signals microblogging capability. Yammer is a microblogging platform that provides a more than basic Twitter -- but at its core, it's about microblogging for the enterprise," Yehuda said in an e-mail to InternetNews.com.

"Socialcast is a lightweight social networking platform that I would position as having the functionally to address the in-between needs," Yehuda added.

Later this summer, Socialcast plans to introduce a business intelligence suite that it will charge for. Socialcast's Young says the company has trademarked the name "Social Business Intelligence."

The optional BI system will provide social analytics within a company to give managers a better idea of how and where information is moving within the organization.

Socialcast has a number of blue chip clients that helped test the new version, including Turner Broadcasting.

"I find the informal 'fun' nature of Socialcast to be the hook that brings you in. Then you realize it is set up as a rich customizable tool to socialize ideas, which was exactly what I was after," Art David, vice president of Turner Broadcasting Studios, Animation and Creative Services, said in a statement.

"The kicker was when I saw the admin tools that allow you to track the trends in the community collaboration. This allowed us to add some management handles to the free form stream of conversation and report on the 'quality' of our collaboration efforts."