Salesforce Launches Communities on Same Day Yammer Launches a Big Upgrade

Published on August 14, 2012
by Arik Hesseldahl seems to be taking what it has learned from operating Chatter and applying it elsewhere, with Salesforce Communities, a new service it announced today.

The idea is to let companies create their own environments where they share information internally and with partners and customers of their choosing. Exposing business processes to the kind of social flows that we’ve become accustomed to on Facebook and Twitter allows vendors and customers to participate in discussions more readily. As Salesforce puts it, this amounts to “breaking down the boundaries of the business.”

Most products that bring companies into the same place with the other entities they do business with are focused purely on the conversation, or on getting transactions done. Communities, Salesforce says, will let them do a lot more.

Deploy communities to support any business process — from franchises sharing best practices, to high-end retailers delivering custom shopping experiences, to universities looking to connect students with alumni.

If it sounds a lot like Chatter, it should, though that brand name appears almost nowhere in the announcement. It’s being run by Doug Bewsher, Salesforce’s SVP for Chatter. But the fact is that Chatter isn’t quite getting the traction that companies like Jive and Yammer are getting.

Salesforce’s news happened to drop on the same day as word of a major upgrade from Yammer, which is in the process of being absorbed into Microsoft. The software giant said in June that it would pay $1.26 billion for Yammer.

Among the new features is an in-box that gives the user a quick glance at new messages meant for their eyes, including mentions, group messages they’re included in and private messages. Another is a homepage view that, at a glance, gives you a look at what people in your company are buzzing about and what files are being actively shared.

There’s also a “presence” feature that indicates when someone is online at that moment, so you can start a conversation with them; you can easily add more users to the conversation as needed.

As you may remember, Yammer and Salesforce have a history of being rivals. Last year, Yammer launched a promotional campaign called “Friends with Benefits” that touted the fact that Yammer integrated data from Chatter, though they acted more like Frenemies.

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