During the Summer, Salesforce.com released a Social Networking tool called Chatter. Enigmatic CEO and Chairman of Salesforce, Marc Benioff asked “Why do I know more about what my friends are up to than I do about my work colleagues?” No doubt you have experienced the odd situation of not really knowing what the people one or two desks away do, let alone those in the other office or country.

To get an understanding of what Chatter is it’s useful to look at two concepts from Facebook, or LinkedIn – that of Profiles and News Feeds. Now I don’t know about you, but when I log into Facebook or LinkedIn, I am looking straight at the News Feed and scrolling through to see what’s been going on.

If it isn’t on the News Feed it never happened! I haven’t actually clicked into a contact’s Profile and read what they are up to for…….well I can’t remember when I last did that. Today we want information to come and find us rather than us having to decide – ‘I wonder what Jim is up to these days’

So come back to your Company’s business applications. Replace your friend’s Profiles with your customer or Opportunity records. If you wanted information you had to actively go and find it, ‘I wonder what the state of this Opportunity is’

Chatter brings the concept of the News Feed into the heart of your business enabling your users to ‘Follow’ other members of your team, Accounts, Opportunities, Support Cases, Content – whatever you decide. When your employees log into Salesforce they see the News Feed they are familiar with telling them what is happening in their business life.

The key benefit of Chatter is that it enables the social aspect of your business – bringing your team together and enabling them to collaborate. There have been great examples of people posting questions on Chatter, and getting instant answers back from people they didn’t even know.

You might be asking for reference cases in certain verticals, or answers to a specific technical question. It also enables those unsung heroes who have always been helping our behind the scenes to do so in public and get the recognition they deserve. Salesforce reported a 40% reduction in internal emails as a result of Chatter. No more “Does anyone know…” emails followed by a host of Reply to Alls.

A lot of clients do say “We don’t want our employees wasting time chatting about what they had for lunch or what they got up to at the weekend.” In our experience – when you know that your CEO or Manager is almost definitely following you – the Chatter is 100% business related.

Chatter for iPad

That’s great, and I love using it. I was even more excited over the last couple of weeks to see the release of Chatter Desktop, Chatter Mobile and now Chatter for iPad!

Chatter Desktop runs on Adobe Air and gives you online and offline access to your Chatter feed. As soon as you turn on your Mac/PC in the morning up it pops listing your news. A great reminder to log into Salesforce as well! You can drag files off your desktop straight into Chatter Desktop and share with your followers – great for some new competitor intelligence, or a new analyst report.

I’m running Chatter Mobile on my iPhone4 and that is really neat. I’ve found myself using Chatter Mobile whenever I am out of the office. I can see what leads are coming in, what opportunities have changed value or stage, and I can also use it as a quick address book for members of my team – I can Chatter to them via the app, or text or email them. It’s a great way of ensuring that our business communications are held securely within the business systems.

Earlier this week Salesforce completed the lineup with Chatter for iPad which leverages the screen size to give a very nice looking touch interface. Any Director or Manager is going to find this a really useful way of keeping up to date with what their teams are up to, and the progress of their month. No more spreadsheets or weekly team meetings.

Chatter is enabled for all Salesforce customers at no extra charge. If you are not seeing it in your own Salesforce instance then your System Admin may not have enabled it.

Do you use Chatter? Have you found it effective? Have you seen a reduction in internal emails?