Reply All, with Attachments: Developers Work to Make Your Inbox More Social
Rapportive and Mingly Help Users Uncover Value in Everyday Email
Good for Those in ‘People-Centric’ Jobs
As developers find ways to integrate social media features into traditional productivity tools – even if the social networks won’t – I came across two companies that provide a way to add social media information right into your Gmail.
Rapportive and Mingly claim to socialize your Gmail, providing a view of sender or recipient’s social profiles and updates right inside the interface. It’s free, and to launch, the user simply needs to authorize access to the social networks.
While quaint, add-ons to Gmail are nothing new. Mozilla has a list, and Gmail itself has Gmail Labs for experimental new features. I’m curious to know why Google hasn’t created a social overlay in the way that Rapportive and Mingly have, but perhaps with the launch of Google+, some social integrations for Gmail might be just around the corner.
Curious about enterprise use of such add-ons, I asked both developers about their integrations with Google Apps or Google Apps for Business – Google’s entries in the battle to control the corporate inbox. Tyler Koblasa, CEO and founder of Mingly, explained that his product can connect to any IMAP account, so those corporate users with permission from their MIS department can bring the Mingly environment, for example, into their Outlook interface via IMAP. However, Koblasa explained that he is exploring connectivity directly with Microsoft Exchange Server.
Rahul Vohra, CEO and founder of Rapportive, did not reveal how many Rapportive users are inside corporations, but he did mention that downloads are ‘north of 1 million,’ and he has noticed that many users are sales and business development people, or professionals with ‘people-centric jobs.’
Indeed, Rapportive is quite aware of its loyal fan base, collecting and archiving tweets on the webpage, http://www.rapportive.com/allthelove.
‘I'm a huge fan of Rapportive,’ explains Dave Cutler, a social media strategist. ‘It is incredibly
useful for discovering, revealing or confirming information about the people you trade emails with.’
I was unsure to bring in the concept of the ‘social inbox,’ as Facebook seemed to have owned that discussion back in November 2010, when it announced widescale upgrades to its messaging system.
Of course, that was simply for any and all messages within the Facebook system, which, as we all know, is not used for business or even long-form, more serious communications. Indeed, I tested emails to firstname.lastname@example.org – the email address I created upon learning of this new social inbox – and the messages went directly to my ‘Other’ folder, or Facebook’s answer to the Spam.
Apps, Apps and More Apps
Of course, as an analyst, my attention turned to how these developers aim to make money – as I’m sure, Google is not sharing any AdWords revenue with them.
Rapportive offers additional customization beyond the standard Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn extensions. Called Raplets, these widgets can be used for even more business functions, including CRM and contact management. A list of public raplets are available here, although Rapportive actively encouragers developers to build their own custom raplets. It is not a paid marketplace at the current time, though Vohra is considering charging for enhanced products.
It’s almost like a younger version of the Salesforce.com AppExchange – but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
‘Serving as a conduit to paid services could very well monetize the platform,’ contends Vohra.
On the Horizon
Clearly, an email account with all social features and messages of senders and recipients clearly visible at all times would obviate the need to constantly be searching for information on the social networks. I thought to myself: what about Gmail on a smartphone? That would be an incredible all-in-one experience, without the need to toggle back and forth between multiple applications.
‘Currently, there is no Rapportive experience on mobile – but something that we are firmly addressing this year,’ explained Vohra.
Koblasa of Mingly also conceded that there is currently no mobile app, though an iPhone app is in development, ahead of one planned for Android.
But in a world of social CRM, in which professionals in any department inside an organization are mining social networks for signals from their clients, prospects, partners, and employees, a socialized inbox is the wave of the future.
‘It’s all about extracting true value and filtering noise,’ explains Koblasa.
Jake Wengroff is the founder of social business consultancy JXB1. Jake evaluates technologies, vendors, markets, and trends in the social media ecosystem. He also advises and consults with clients on social business, marketing, collaboration software and change management. Find him on Twitter @JakeWengroff.
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