February 20, 2010 Keenan

Salesforce Chatter; Coming Soon

Many of you know I am a big fan of enterprise micro-blogging. Think Twitter for your company. It is by far the most efficient way to share information, exchange ideas, collaborate and engage people in your company. Enterprise micro-blogging tools make companies more agile and improve performance because they capture the invisible.

Salesforce.com is going to launch their own micro-blogging tool called Chatter (now in private beta.) Chatter will compete with Socialcast, Yammer, Socialtext and all the other microblogging tools out there today. It’s a crowded space, but they will have an advantage because of it’s integration into their Salesforce.com platform.

Chatter provides all the typical features you would expect from traditional micro-blogging tools. You can create groups, follow the people most interesting to you, filter feeds to easily find things that are important, respond to specific users directly, share documents and links and more.

But, Chatter also has a few unique features. The most interesting is, unlike Yammer, Socialcast and other pure play micro-blogging tools, Chatter gives you a home page where all of your Salesforce data and important information is laid out for you to monitor. Think of it like a business application dashboard. Another unique Chatter feature is the profile page. The Chatter profile page appears more informative than Yammer and Socialcast from what I can tell. It provides your experience, skills and other personal information so others in the organization know who you are and what you do. It has more of a Facebook profile feel.

Another unique feature Chatter has is its ability to allow you to follow a document. I like this feature a lot. You can follow a PowerPoint presentation, a spreadsheet, a word doc. anything. I like this feature because it makes updating, and managing versions super easy. It also allows you to see what others think of the information and make corrections on the fly. Beyond documents and people, Chatter allows you to follow other applications, including non-Salesforce.com applications.

Chatter also gives you the ability to bring information in from outside social networks like Twitter. The value here is you can create a Twitter search for a specific company or customer and anytime time that company or customer is mentioned on Twitter, everyone in your Chatter group can see it. This is a powerful way to manage a customer and stay ahead of the competition.

One question I do have about Chatter that concerns me is integrating an entire organization. Traditionally, only sales, and marketing and the executives use Salesforce.com If Salesforce wants it to be a ubiquitous tool for the entire company they will have to create licensing pricing that makes it worth it to have everyone in the company to use it; including those who normally don’t use Salesforce, like product, finance and HR. The real value in micro-blogging comes from connecting the entire organization. Not just a few functional groups.

If you are a Salesforce.com customer, Chatter is a compelling tool to bring your organization together. If used appropriately, it has the ability to create proposals faster, identify useful information faster, improve customers relationships, increase sales, accelerate product development and more.

Whether it’s Chatter, Socialcast, Yammer, Socialtext or any other micro-blogging tool, your organization will benefit from their use. Find one and use it. They are about more than chattering, yammering or twittering, they are about getting business done.

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  • http://www.sellbetter.ca/blog Tibor Shanto

    Jim, I agree with you that it could bring a lot of benefits, especially the follow doc feature. Beyond the concern you raise about the limited population that may have access to the tool, the other concern I would have is having a cohesive strategy for use. You know that Twitter can be a great tool or a time wasting distraction. Companies will need to think through how they roll it out and use it to improve things rather than creating another time suck, just think back to when in house IM apps were made available. Managed right it could be a great tool, without a strategy and focus, could be a time suck, not what organizations need in today’s market.

  • http://asalesguy.com Keenan

    How do you do that?

    I think users will have to learn to use it for their own benefit.
    When companies dictate how tools like this should be used, they become
    stale.

    I am a big believer people know best if given the lattitude. Think
    RT's and Follow Friday's on Twitter. Not Twitter ideas.

    The best thing companies can do is roll it out and let users decide
    how it works for them. Then they need to highlight the best uses to
    help speed adoption and illustrate value.

  • http://www.sellbetter.ca/blog Tibor Shanto

    I am half way with you. I agree that people will know best when give the opportunity, but I am not sure that applies to everyone. This then swings the pendulum the other way where companies either block or don't roll out the tools at to prevent not so much mis-use, but time sucks, (and let's not forget legal motivation too). I think setting up best practices and helping users understand how to get the most out of it may get faster and better results than just rolling it out and letting people find a “level”. The goal is to make it work for everyone, the individuals and the collective. The reality is that in a large collective, you have to set the tune for the average, rather than people like you who likely already bring a balance to it. Simply it is not about absolute control, it is about ensuring longevity of the tool.

    Tibor

  • http://www.DanWaldschmidt.com/ Daniel Waldschmidt

    My gut sense is that this will just be another tool that complicates conversations rather than simplifies — kinda like Google Wave…

    Just call me if you want to talk to me. Less is more.

  • http://asalesguy.com Keenan

    “just call me” assumes I know you exist, what expertise you have and
    what you can do for me. This isn't always the case.

    The “invisible conversation” link in the post is a great example of
    the power of tools like this.

    Phone, email etc are one to one with knowledge of who and why you r
    connecting. There is a lot more support and info available than what
    we are aware of and these tools help us find it.

    //keenan

  • http://www.DanWaldschmidt.com/ Dan Waldschmidt

    My gut sense is that this will just be another tool that complicates conversations rather than simplifies — kinda like Google Wave…

    Just call me if you want to talk to me. Less is more.

  • http://asalesguy.com Keenan

    “just call me” assumes I know you exist, what expertise you have and
    what you can do for me. This isn't always the case.

    The “invisible conversation” link in the post is a great example of
    the power of tools like this.

    Phone, email etc are one to one with knowledge of who and why you r
    connecting. There is a lot more support and info available than what
    we are aware of and these tools help us find it.

    //keenan

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