New Social Network for Businesses From Salesforce.com

social media reviewsSalesforce is the dominant customer resource management (CRM) system, and according to the company, it’s used by more than 77,000 businesses.

In response to the increasingly social nature of the web and the need for collaboration, Salesforce has introduced a social and collaborative function for its users called “Chatter.”

Similar to a combination of Google Wave, Twitter and Facebook, Chatter allows users to form a community within their business that can be used for secure collaboration and knowledge-sharing.

salesforece chatter

The application is free to people who already have a Salesforce account, and it is available for a $15 per user fee to businesses that don’t already use Salesforce, albeit with limited features.

To decide if Chatter is right for your business, check out these key features and drawbacks.

Pro #1: Follow Documents as Well as People

For teams collaborating on a big presentation or proposal, this feature is awesome! You can receive updates on the progress of any document, whether it’s a PDF, PowerPoint, or Word doc, and respond with guidance or comments to your colleagues in real time. This is a killer app for businesses that have dispersed workforces.

salesforce chatter groups

Chatter in action. Here, a team is collaborating on an upcoming presentation in real time, and providing contextual information to guide the discussion.

Pro #2: Follow Specific Service Records or Sales Cycles

Tracking the lifecycle of a customer service request or sales prospect is an incredibly valuable feature of Chatter. Managers especially may find this tool useful, as it gives them a top-level view of the progress on all key accounts. This is also a useful tool for attributing activity to individual employees.

Pro #3: Integrate Twitter Data into Your Profile

The Chatter system makes it easy to follow companies or individuals from within your broader Salesforce profile. The integration allows for data from companies to be appended to their internal records, so you can see the latest news from businesses while processing additional deliverables for that company.

Pro #4: Collaborate Securely

Using public social network tools to collaborate can leave important proprietary information out in the open, which no business wants to do. Chatter enables the same ease of use and accessibility of public social networks, but all collaboration takes place in Salesforce’s secure cloud, which tens of thousands of businesses already trust with highly sensitive information.

Pro #5: Post Status Updates Within Salesforce

Knowing what your key employees and teammates are doing during the workday can dramatically increase productivity and the quality of work, as this ability lowers distractions and enables more knowledge-sharing.

chatter collaboration

Chatter status update. Jim Halpert, one of the main characters on NBC's The Office, shows an example of status updates within the Chatter platform. Chatter updates are within the company firewall, and help to inform your colleagues of what you're currently doing.

Con #1: Need to Be a Salesforce User for Full Access

Salesforce licenses cost more than $700 per user per year for the professional version. If your business is not using Salesforce currently, this can be a hefty investment. Also, non-sales employees likely do not have licenses for Salesforce, which could restrict the benefits you gain from beginning to use Chatter for projects.

Con #2: Best for Mostly Large Organizations

Because it is an enterprise-grade solution for an enterprise-grade sales management platform, very large businesses have the most to gain from implementing Chatter. Smaller firms with fewer locations have less need for this sort of collaboration, and moderately priced solutions like 37Signals’ Basecamp and Campfire might by better-suited to their needs.

Conclusion

Overall, Chatter feels like a big step in the right direction for sales organizations to get more social and community-oriented with their sales approach. The application can decrease duplicated work, increase the efficiency and speed at which a sales team acts on opportunities and improve internal communications. Though it’s rather costly and probably more useful for large businesses, Chatter is powerful enough to warrant further exploration of your business needs.

What do you think about Chatter? Have you tried it out? Leave your comments in the box below.

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About the Author, Peter Wylie

Peter Wylie is lead researcher for Three Ships Media, an emerging media marketing company that specializes in using blogs and social networks to connect clients with target customers online. Other posts by »




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  • http://l2tmedia.com/ Mr. Gordon Gecko

    Having worked with Salesforce.com on an extended basis, I can not emphasis enough how excited I am to walk through this new feature & observe how it runs.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks for your endorsement Gordon. It does look promising

  • http://twitter.com/marcusnelson marcusnelson

    Hi Peter —
    Really appreciate you covering Chatter on this post (I work for Salesforce). Just wanted to point out a couple of things about your paragraph entitled, “Con #1: Need to Be a Salesforce User for Full Access”

    This first being a rather misleading statement to lead readers directly to the Professional Edition. We have two other affordable editions that are still very capable. Our Contact Manager starts at $5/mo., and Group Edition that starts at $25/mo. Both editions include Chatter, and are flexible enough to grow with your company. See: http://www.salesforce.com/smb

    Secondly — Chatter is available independently w/o having to have full-blown CRM: http://www.salesforce.com/crm/ep-chatter.jsp

    Again, thank you Peter.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks for your feedback. Pretty sure the article addressed your second point Marcus

  • http://twitter.com/marcusnelson marcusnelson

    I’m sorry Michael, I must have glazed over paragraph 4 where it addressed that Chatter was available as a stand alone subscription. My apologies, you are correct.Did it address that anyone in the company could benefit from Chatter’s social collaboration, and not just Sales Employees? ;)

  • Peter

    Marcus,

    Thanks for reading the article, and sorry for any confusion regarding the differentiation between the Professional edition and the other editions. I could have elaborated more on the specific other ways that users can begin experimenting with Chatter.

    Overall, I think the product is very solid and will continue to become more popular and useful.

    Thanks for your feedback,

    Peter

  • Peter

    Gordon,
    Be sure to let us know what your experience with the product yields, thanks for sharing!

    Peter

  • mattrsullivan

    Thanks for taking the time to explain Chatter. I’m in a small(ish) company & have been wondering how to leverage Chatter or how to differentiate it from our other SM options. I can see Pro #1 (Follow documents as well as people) being quite handy. We don’t currently file many docs in SalesForce, as it’s easy to lose track of them. With the Chatter feature, I envision using its repository features more as we move forward.

  • Peter

    Matt,

    That is definitely one of the main values I see as well, and I like the ability to comment on the way presentations and proposals are coming together outside the document, because tracked changes can be cumbersome.

    Thanks for reading and commenting,

    Pete

  • http://twitter.com/VasserPro VasserPro

    I agree that Salesforce is best suited for larger organizations. I used it for a while with my small company before finding something that did more of what I needed it to. However, if you aren’t using any CRM, Salesforce is definitely worth giving a try.

  • http://www.ricardobueno.com/ Ricardo Bueno

    I totally see how something like this is useful as a collaborative tool. I personally wouldn’t use it (I don’t have a use for it in my current business), at least not right now. But I’ve used Google Wave to collaborate on things before and thought it was extremely useful. If it has those same elements, I’m all for it :-)

  • Location Nyc

    If you have a small company and a few desks across from each other this feature is useless. It’s also misleading to mention twitter and facebook in the same sentence as chatter. There is nothing socially outward about chatter. It’s an internal device only. Nothing at all like twitter or facebook.

  • http://www.brosix.com/ Brosix

    I’ve used Salesforce before, but I’m not sure this type of network would be useful.

  • http://www.socialcubix.com/ Facebook Apps

    Thanks for your insight on chatter. We’re looking to roll it out in our organization soon.

  • http://www.collabrax.com/ Collabrax

    I was a part of the beta group and worked with a company that had about 20 users. I found the employees that were active on personal social media sites were the biggest adopters. Of course those that aren’t active on Facebook, Twitter, etc., had trouble working it into their daily activities. I see that as one of the challenges in increasing adoption.

  • David

    Thank you for sharing this much knowledge

  • http://www.vongehrconsulting.com/ Erroin Martin

    It is good to see that Salesforce has numerous options for the SMB owner.

  • Eve

    I love chatter but my company does not use salesforce – what else is out there that competes?

  • Rex

    The organization I work for recently acquired Chatter and here are my observations:

    1. “What are you working on?” “Like”ing posts?? “Trending”??? These are things that don’t add as much value in relation to the amount of effort you need to put in to “maintain” this kind of office lifestyle. 
    2. Weak integration with real office tools like Spreadsheets, E-Mail, etc. 
    3. Information is quite messy and I could see this as an audit nightmare.
    4. Because it looks like Facebook, people use it like Facebook. I guess it lightens up the workplace but it can potentially bring too much noise that it may impede actual work progress.
    5. Chatter Desktop is too clunky and takes up too much space. It loads updates automatically but push notifications are inexistent. 
    6. Collaboration tools for me should enhance or at the very least record the thought process when coming up with milestones and artefacts. Chatter does not provide this. 

    Simply put, Chatter is an internal social-media-like platform for you company. What it is not is a collaboration tool.

  • kathy

    We are using Chatter and while it works great within the offices, and shop area, we are finding that the people out in the field are not getting the messages in a timely manner. Sometimes it takes a day for the field people to get messages that they needed to have 22 hours ago. Any suggestions/solutions?

    Also, the people that sit at their desks and have Chatter Desktop always open get all chatters right away(whether they are directed at them or not), but it is the people that are in the field that need the updates the most and they are not getting them.









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