As quick as emails can be for communicating information, I still long for something more efficient with less clutter, especially when it comes to long threads of email correspondence. In looking for something different, I stumbled upon Salesforce’s Chatter.com. Chatter is not a new service, but if your company or organization doesn’t know about, it could be a useful alternative to traditional email and forum threads.
In a nutshell, Chatter is an online, desktop, and mobile collaboration service that works similar to Facebook. You and your co-workers and team can post messages, files, and links to one another without having to compose a new email each time, or send copious replies – it’s like your own company private Facebook page.
Setting Up A Chatter Account
In order to set up a Chatter account, you and your company (or organization) must register with an email address that includes the company’s email domain. You can’t use say a dot.yahoo.com or dot.gmail.com. The user who registers the company’s account becomes the moderator by default.
The moderator can assign moderator privileges to other members, change the company name on the account, deactivate users, and delete inappropriate posts. Each member of a Chatter group must also use their company’s supported email domain to be a part of the group.
The features of Chatter are similar to Facebook’s timeline. Group members can type messages in the “What are you working on?” text field, as well as attach files and URL links.
Groups members will automatically see each other’s posts, but to keep the timeline, or chatter feed, from becoming a long streaming list of messages, group members can distinguish messages by adding a hashtag to a word which links to all posts and comments on that topic.
So if a post refers to a project – for example “#summermarketing” – that your team is working on, all the posts that feature that same identified topic will get filtered and categorized in a single thread separate from other messages. Topical threads can be saved to your Chatter profile page for reviewing and tracking updates.
Similarly to Twitter you can use the @ sign in front of someone’s name to alert (mention) them to a particular post. When a member’s name is mentioned in a post, he or she will also be notified by email. Also, clicking on that person’s mention in a post links you to that person’s profile.
Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a way to edit messages after they are posted. You must delete and start over. However, it’s very useful that posts can be bookmarked and reviewed by clicking the Bookmarks folder in the sidebar of Chatter. Other folders for personal messages, people, and files are also available.
Another useful feature for Chatter is Groups. Chatter members can create Groups to collaborate with specific members, on specific projects and ideas. Groups are separate from the main Chatter feed, but they contain the same features for posting messages, files, and URLs.
Groups can be Public, where all members can see the group’s posts, comments, and files, but only members of the group can add content to the group’s feed; Private, in which only members of the group can see the content; and Allow Customers, where the Group’s manager(s) can invite customers who are outside the company’s email domain to join the group.
Desktop & Mobile Clients
Chatter also includes cross platform desktop and mobile clients, which allows you to automatically add and receive messages on your feed, as well as drag and drop files from your desktop.
Chatter is also available for free for Android phones and tablets (OS 2.1 or higher), iPads (iOS 5.0 or higher), iPhones and iPod Touches (iOS 4.0 or higher) and BlackBerry devices (OS 5 or higher.)
Chatter is used by thousands of companies, organizations, and groups, including Wells Fargo Bank, NBC Universal, Avon, Comcast, and Pandora. The basic services are free, but the Chatter Plus includes lots more features. While the Chatter and other Salesforce services are geared toward large companies and organizations, it seems to me that smaller companies and groups could benefit from the service too. Chatter reminds me also of Google’s now defunct Buzz, which I think could have helped users depend less on cluttered email boxes if they had learned how to use it properly.
If you already use Chatter, let us know what you think of it in the comments below. Do you think creating something like a private Facebook page is an efficient replacement to company email, or an organizational alternative to Facebook or Google+?