Chatter is a social business communication tool, provided free to Salesforce.com customers. We began using Chatter in January 2011 as a potental tool to improve collaboration. So far Chatter has been piloted accross a broad range of small groups. In total there are 98 registered users and 14 groups. The only group so far to provide structured feedback were those who attended a recent reward and recognition conference. This post focuses on their feedback and what we can learn from it, but will also highlight relevant observations from some of the other groups and suggest future applications of the tool.
Recognition Conference Group Feedback
We set up a group on Chatter for all of the participants of our Recognition Conference (about 60 people in total). The group aimed to:
- Make all the information available to the attendees without swamping their inboxes
- Start the networking early and allow the winners to meet each other online before the event
- To book and arrange activities
- To post answers to common questions in a central location
- Provide a unique space for the winners
There were 47 replies to the question below which was asked in the feedback survey for the Conference:
25 people left comments relating specifically to Chatter:
The most common criticisim was that users found it inconvenient to have to find the link to the site and login. Some suggested that it should link to the company active directory, but this feature is not available on Chatter.com. However, if you use the desktop application it logs you in automatically. It can also be set to start automatically when you start your computer. We did not explore this option prior to the event because IT would have had to install the app individually for everyone. If we had done this it could have simplified and improved the user experience.
The other negative comments could have been avoided with a more thorough system induction. Although we did schedule some online drop-in sessions, take-up was very low, even though some people were clearly struggling to get to grips with simple functionality. They didn’t tell us about their problems so we couldn’t help them. If we had put more effort into welcoming people onto the system we could have provided more personalised guidance on using it and built relationships with the users so that they would have felt more comfortable asking for help either on or off line.
Communities need active facilitators to welcome engage and support members. This is not optional, it’s essential. The best example of this I’ve seen is on Jane Hart’s Social Learning site; every new member received a personal welcome to the site, this engaged them and made them feel more comfortable about contributing and asking for help. It’s a lot of work and when you’re at work with a million and one other things to do you can easily make excuses for not going to these lengths, but quite simply you must.
Where Next with Chatter?
We need to decide the next steps for our use of Chatter. How else can we use this tool and how can we learn from our experiences?
One of the early worries came when we launched the Recognition Conference Group. We let things go viral and people started inviting their friends to Chatter and began communicating, not always in ways we thought were appropriate. Although this caused a few nervous moments it does not mean we should avoid these tools:
“Social business gets the best out of companies’ values, both the good and the bad; it will expose your corporate culture big time” Luis Suarez via Twitter
It may be tempting to avoid using tools like Chatter because they are so open, because we perceive them to be risky. The main risk is that we will expose negative behaviours and negative aspects of our culture. Are we really afraid of the truth, or should we be bold and brace ourselves to deal with these issues as they come up and use them to improve our business?
There are many different ways in which we could use Chatter both to support learning and internal communications. At the moment it seems sensible to continue using Chatter to pilot new ideas and to start building a more collaborative culture, which is one of the objectives we set out to achieve in January.
Possible future Chatter projects:
To use Chatter, or any similar tool, successfully you need to..
- make it as easy as possible for users to gain access
- welcome them onto the system individually to build rapport
- provide plenty of online support
- position the tool as a way to solve problems
- target small audiences to give provide personalisation and context