If you're an active user on Twitter, you've probably run into the issue of wanting to post something but just to a closed group of colleagues or members of an organization. And while Twitter does not provide this ability, there are several new services that do.
Twitter has changed the way we communicate, interact with friends, and find out about breaking news. What it has not done though is provide a way for organizations to communicate internally using the informal method pioneered by Twitter called microblogging. There are several new services rushing to fill this void though, and we run through a few of them here.
Yammer was one of the first "microblogging for enterprise" tools to hit the market after Twitter started to take off. Yammer works by automatically creating a network based on the user's email address, so everyone with an email address @flatcreek.com would automatically be put into a network. It's important for larger organizations to realize that this happens with or without the permission of the organization itself. Organizations can take ownership of their Yammer network, but it does not impact the ability for employees to have off the books conversations.
I'm a huge fan of Socialcast. The interface is clean, there are a lot of features, and the support is truly amazing. Last fall, I posted a note to their Get Satisfaction forum requesting some way to manage multiple networks. They quickly responded on the board and within a couple of weeks had actually built the feature into the application. Their email support is incredibly responsive as well, so with socialcast you not only get a great product but a terrific company behind it. Updating Socialcast feels more like Facebook than Twitter, and I mean that in a good way.
Socialcast also makes it easy to manage larger networks, with the ability to create groups. Setting up a Socialcast network is, like with Yammer, based on email domain.
Having given Socialcast a glowing review, I have to say that ShoutEm may be the service to watch for non-profits. Like with Ning, Shout 'em makes creating networks incredibly easy. While their interface is too casual for serious consideration out of the gate, it's also easy to change the format to make it more professional. There are elements of Twitter, Foursquare, and Facebook all meshed together, giving users the ability to check in at locations and earn badges.
Like with Ning, ShoutEm lets you operate the network from your own domain (such as my.domain.com or team.domain.com) for a $4.95 charge per month. Setting up a ShoutEm network is not based on domain name, but can be limited to one or more domains. This freedom to easily integrate users who may not work directly for an organization, as well as the more casual interface, make it very appealing for non-profits.
All three services offer something different, both from the administrator and user sides, but have some similarities as well. They have all invested in mobile apps for the Blackberry and iPhone, which makes updating for users as easy as updating Twitter on the go. Socialcast has the vastly superior collection of integration tools, including mobile apps, IM integration, and a plugin for Google Apps.
All in all, Socialcast is ideal for companies -- truly "internal" communications -- but ShoutEm is emerging as a great tool for more extended networks, like a non-profit or campaign with volunteers and boards. And regardless of what service you end up using, don't neglect checking on Yammer to make sure you are tuned in to conversations happening there.