Salesforce.com entering social media space

Last week, I attended salesforce.com’s annual Dreamforce conference in San Francisco. It was a great event, with all sorts of exciting announcements and fun activities. One I found to be most interesting was salesforce’s announcement that they would be entering the social media space, with their new product named Chatter. CEO Marc Benioff described Chatter as Facebook for the enterprise, a tool that will enable co-workers to network and collaborate in whole new ways. In addition to bringing people together, Chatter will also bring other workplace entities (e.g. projects, content, plans, etc.) to collaborate along with the people. With Chatter, employees can follow and easily interact with members of their workgroup, their cross-functional project team, influential peers around the company, or key executives; they can also follow and provide inputs into various projects, content, strategies and reports as they evolve and are updated by others around the company.

Facebook’s astounding growth would indicate that there was an unmet need for social interaction services. That need is certainly just as high within the enterprise as outside it. Motivated employees always want to be better informed about things that are going on around the company, and Chatter will be a great tool for feeding that hunger. Salesforce’s timing is great too, because millions of working adults are already familiar with social media, and so adoption should be quick and easy wherever the service is acquired. My question is how many companies will consider a service like Chatter to be a “must have” vs. a “nice to have” in this economy. But the experts keep saying that our economy has turned the corner, so salesforce’s timing may turn out to be great in that respect too. For companies that do adopt, I’m guessing that effective use of Chatter will quickly become a performance criteria, just as effective use of social media in general is starting to become a key hiring criteria, at least for marketers (see post on that topic below).

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