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Marketing and social media: Is Chatter all talk?

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3rd Aug 2010
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Dr Katy Ring and Kate Hanaghan discuss the marketing department's need for social media tools - and explore whether Salesforce.com's Chatter will be a good fit.

In K2 Advisory’s new report "Digital Workplace Choices: Preparing for the 2020 Workplace" there is overwhelming evidence to suggest that marketing professionals expect to use social media tools for their campaigns in the next year: 82% said this would be the case. Our research also reveals that marketing professionals are the key early adopter community for social media tooling within organisations.

At the moment, only about half of marketers feel the IT department provides the necessary technology for them to fully take advantage of social media for marketing purposes. Furthermore, around a third believes they still have to break with company web usage policies in order to use social media for marketing purposes.
IT needs to reconsider the support it gives to the marketing department: about half of the marketers we questioned said other departments in their organisation had asked them to help develop a social media strategy. With this type of informal peer education, there is plenty of room for guidelines (if they exist) around social media technology use and business conduct to be bent or broken. Simply turning off access to certain sites or certain tools is a crude solution to a ‘problem’. CIOs need to be thinking about how they enable social media networking – even in public sector organisations.
In many cases, marketing professionals are being asked to help their marketing/comms peers, sales colleagues or HR colleagues. Indeed, our data shows that half of the requests for assistance marketers receive are from the sales team. In many organisations, what this all means is that marketing departments are not only ‘informally’ forging ahead with their use of social media, but that they are increasingly recognised as the company experts – tasked with squeezing in training and advice too. They use the tools that are available to them, and those they stumble across, but the question is whether IT could do more to enable what they do. That also applies to internal use of social media for collaboration, such as Chatter from Salesforce.com. Does the IT department really know how this sort of tool might be used to help achieve business objectives or indeed, how to get staff buy in?
Chatter – silenced by enterprise pricing?
Salesforce has recently launched Chatter which is a cloud-based enterprise social collaboration application and platform that basically offers similar features to Facebook but within the enterprise firewall.  Approximately 5,000 customers have been involved in the Chatter Beta program and some of those organisations were available to share their experiences at a recent Salesforce analyst event. Martin Reents, Co-founder and CEO, Conject, likened Chatter to using a "virtual open plan office", meaning that as his company has grown in size he has lost the ability to casually overhear conversations and the consequent ability to provide informal support, but this is restored by using a tool such as Chatter as you opt-in to follow deals and projects. He also liked the way that his sales team could see if he was following a project, thereby reinforcing the requirements for them to use the processes set out by the company.
Kimberley Jansen, Global Lead for CRM at Misys has experimented with Chatter in a sandbox environment with 20 users because she was concerned that users might get overwhelmed by the amount of data pushed out using the tool. She used it to create a group around a specific development fix for the support team. Jansen believes that tools like Chatter can help create better quality data and strengthen processes because everyone has to use it. However, she said she would need additional filters from Salesforce before deploying more widely in the organisation to avoid swamping employees with unwanted information.
Liz Schofield, VP marketing for Salesforce channel partner FinancialForce.com switched Chatter on in April and has found it particularly useful for helping new recruits get up to speed with deals, as well as enabling them to work more quickly with different people in the organisation and understand the company culture and processes. It has also significantly reduced the amount of email traffic for employees. Her company has developed a Chatter extension called Chatterbox targeted at finance departments to create stronger links between sales and finance around issues such as slow payers. This type of application, available from AppExchange, could prove very useful as Salesforce admits that even within its own organisation the finance department is least likely to make use of Chatter.
Overall a tool such as Chatter is a good way forward for CIOs to provide internal social media tooling for sales and marketing, especially if you are already a Salesforce.com customer and/or a Force.com customer as the capability is available at no extra charge for existing user licenses. However, if you are interested in licensing Chatter across the whole enterprise, the costs are quite high at £12.50 per user per month. Indeed this enterprise-wide pricing might be worth a re-think at Salesforce.com. If the company wants to become more widely used beyond CRM within customer organisations, it has, as K2’s research suggests, a tool in Chatter that is aimed at the right internal early adopter community – marketing professionals. At the moment the price to roll out across an organisation, however, is too high for most CIOs to justify.

Dr Katy Ring is director of K2 Advisory. Kate Hanaghan is research manager of K2 Advisory.

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By JayMcMaster31
30th Sep 2011 19:22

I really think that in order to market effectively in today's world, you have to have social media tools. It's too bad that marketing departments do not get enough support from the IT departments to develop these tools. I have to say that I haven't try Chatter, but I may have to check it out after reading this article. Either way, I think it's imperative that any sort of marketers use forms of social media marketing, especially if you wish to have an online presence for your company.

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