Last month I shared some thoughts about how CRM is becoming (and actually always has been) social. In addition to the ways the Salesforce platform is helping organizations integrate with social data, I pointed to a few other tools that are available for anyone to use. The other side of Social CRM is what is changing inside organizations; how communication between organizational staff is getting more social. Increasingly communication is moving beyond corporate email, in-office meetings, and official documentation. Employees at your organization are using IM, Skype, social networks, and collaborative file and note sharing tools to communicate and exchange information and do their jobs. There’s a tool from Salesforce called Chatter that allows organizations to pull internal social communication together is a single place. The cool thing about Chatter is that it’s free and you don’t need to be a Salesforce user to take advantage of it for your organization.
Think of Chatter as an internal social network that is only available to staff who share an organizational email address. Everyone from the “ABC Foundation” who has an “abcfoundation.org” email address is able to share information and it’s private from anyone outside the org. Comments, files, and links can be shared. Responses are saved in a thread so it’s easy for people to catch up on the chatter if they haven’t logged in for a while. Employees can follow other users who they find very helpful or work with a lot. Users of Common Ground or Salesforce have an added benefit of being able to follow other things like Accounts, Contacts, and donations. This is what differentiates Chatter and integrates it with the CRM functionality – you can follow information in your database as you would a friend or interest in Facebook.
I think there are a lot of ways that nonprofit staff could benefit from using Chatter. A few that I have collected or thought of are:
- Getting staff comfortable with micro-blogging: Chatter feels very similar to Twitter or Facebook but is safer because it’s internal only. It can be a great way to get staff more comfortable with sharing on social media.
- Allow collaboration across departments and locations: Smaller organizations may not get as much benefit from Chatter if they are already working together closely. Orgs that are split across teams or geographically could find that Chatter is the virtual water cooler they need.
- Encourage staff to use the CRM: If you are using Chatter with your CRM, it can be a great way to get people not comfortable with databases to use the system in a less intimidating manner.
- Create a timeline or history of events and comments: Chatter produces a virtual log of what people are thinking about and working on across your org. This could be valuable to review and reflect on in the future.
- Identify the influences and hidden talent in your org: By allowing anyone to share and comment on posts, Chatter can equalize the opportunity for junior or more introverted staff to share their wisdom and creativity.
Chatter has been around since late 2009, but it was only early this year that Salesforce made it available to anyone for free. If you already are using Salesforce or Common Ground, your administrator may need to activate the feature. Though it’s exciting and has a lot of potential, a lot of organizations report that the adoption has been slow using it. Like any new tool, I think it will take time for people to understand how it works. As I mentioned before, smaller groups may also find that they exchange the information they need through other channels. As larger nonprofit entities adopt the Salesforce platform, other creative uses of Chatter will pop up. There are also solution providers like Astadia (a Convio Solution Partner) who are developing products like Amplify4Chatter that extends the usefulness of Chatter for organizations.
If you’re interested in learning more, the Salesforce Foundation offers an Intro to Chatter for Nonprofits every 2nd Wednesday of the month from 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM PT. There are also a number of great videos about Chatter on the Salesforce website. I’d be interested in learning if any of you have had successes or challenges using Chatter at your organization. Please share below in the comments of this post!