Salesforce Offers ‘Facebook For Businesses’ With Chatter

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Salesforce.com is seeking to replicate the social networking phenomenon by offering its users a collaboration tool with a Facebook-like interface

Salesforce.com is offering its business users to join the social networking revolution with a new workgroup collaboration tool dubbed “Chatter”.

For several years now Salesforce.com has watched Facebook and Twitter build huge membership lists, and now it hopes to make “social collaboration” an organic part of its cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) platform.

The company introduced Salesforce Chatter, which it describes as a “secure enterprise collaboration application and social development platform,” as the highlight of the opening keynote at its annual Dreamforce user conference and expo at the Moscone Convention Center.

Salesforce.com Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff said the addition of Chatter will allow his customers to turn the Salesforce.com platform from a CRM platform into a “Collaboration Management” platform.

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Benioff, who described himself as an avid Facebook user who has as many as 5,000 friends to his credit, said he believes it is critical for Salesforce.com and the computer industry to move social networking into the enterprise to take advantage of its power to help workgroups, to share information, to focus employee knowledge and experience on constantly changing problems and business needs.

After building up a large following on Facebook, Benioff said he had to ask himself “Why do I know more about strangers on Facebook than my own employees working for my own company?”

One of the key features of Chatter will gather profile information on employees including contact information, interests, areas of expertise, projects they are working on, and their position in the corporate structure. This will make it easy for employees and their managers to find people with the information and experience to answer questions and solve problems, Benioff said.

Chatter will also provide links to both Twitter and Facebook.

Salesforce users will be able to filter the most relevant Twitter feeds into Chatter to track the competition, to watch for new business leads and follow developments or user opinions about a particular product or industry. Employees will also being to pull selected information from their Facebook profiles to populate their Chatter profiles. Chatter will also deliver real-time feeds of updated content and status reports from Salesforce’s core CRM platform.

A specific “Groups” feature in Chatter lets users create collaboration groups as needed to share content, assign tasks, or exchange updates. In the context of Salesforce.com core customer relationship management and sales management mission, Chatter is supposed to provide a built in way for users to track and follow through on sales opportunity, track sales results in real-time, and resolve customer problems and complaints as quickly as possible.

The Chatter user interface demonstrated by Parker Harris, Salesforce.com’s executive vice president for technology, is in the familiar Facebook style, showing updates and latest project developments for each user’s colleagues and workgroup members.