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Mining networks for connection, again

Years ago, I consulted to a company called Visible Path (later acquired by Hoover’s in 2008), that had built a social network analysis capability, figuring out who in a larger enterprise might know someone is another company that someone in the sales side might want to meet. In the case of Visible Path that analysis tapped into the implicit social network latent in Exchange email servers. But in today’s world we are connected explicitly in social systems like Twitter and Linkedin, as well as the contacts in or email.

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Visible Path diagram

 

The notion of mining networks to open connections with targeted people remains a holy grail for sales people and recruiters in the business world, and in the past few weeks I’ve seen two promising products that leverage this sort of information for social CRM sort of applications.

EnterpriseJungle

EnterpriseJungle is a new startup that asks ‘who will you discover?’ and helps professionals discover ‘peers’ that they should be connected to, but aren’t. These may be other people in the same company, or possible sales leads in other companies. EnterpriseJungle pulls this off by tapping into the data available in profiles of other corporate users, and from solutions like Linkedin.

EnterpriseJungle homescreen
EnterpriseJungle homescreen

In the home screen above, you see a Company Matches in the upper right, public matches (people outside the company) in the lower right, and a stream of updates to the left. Note that the tool supports messaging with other connected users, and is making selections based on affinity analysis.

Here’s a profile:

User profile

As you can see, EnterpriseJungle has instrumented the profiles to bring together salient information — perhaps from existing company profile sources — and makes it straightforward to send a message or connect via Linkedin.

Nimble

Nimble is both similar and dissimilar to EnterpriseJungle. Similar, because it does provide a similar sort of network analysis to find a path to a target connection. Dissimilar,  because it can operate as a Twitter and Gmail appliance.

When I first looked at Nimble last year, it was an attempt to create a single location to pull in your Twitter and email, and to provid a single history of your messaging with contacts. A noble goal, but one that was very frustrating for me, because of slow performance and sometimes odd behavior.

However, the tool has been largely reengineered to fix those issues, and also extended in several key ways. For example, there is now a Chrome extension that allows Nimble to tightly integrate with the Gmail user experience, pulling up social network data on email contacts while the user is reading and writing emails.

Screenshot 2013-11-17 11.26.32

Here you can see the Nimble contact of the originator, and at the lower left Nimble has pulled her Twitter stream into context. You can see other controls, like a period of time for ‘staying in touch’, a repository for notes, and other social CRM capabilities.

Along with the capacity to act as a Twitter client, Nimble also pulls shared connections from social networks who can act as intermediaries and make introductions, conceivably.

Screenshot 2013-11-17 10.42.12

 

 

The Bottom Line

This isn’t an in-depth analysis of either of these solutions, but a connecting-of-the-dots based on demos. There is a continuing interest in solving the puzzle that Visible Path and others companies attempted in the days prior to well-established open social networks, and now the awareness that this sort of data is waiting to be mined makes the value proposition for doing so almost inescapable. My sense is that EnterpriseJungle is more oriented toward intra-company social connections while Nimble is more of a social sales appliance, but it’s clear there is a lot of overlap, as well.