Salesforce is releasing new services and features related to the Chatter enterprise social networking tool at this week’s Dreamforce 2012 conference in San Francisco. They include Chatter Communities for Service as well cross-company IM for Chatter users.

Chatter Communities for Service are private social communities that combine peer-to-peer customer service with access to company experts. Thus customers can log into a single portal and obtain answers relating a specific product or service from all relevant sources, rather than having to use different portals for different sources.

Based on the Chatter Communities platform, the solution allows companies to create a customizable, branded location and common customer social profiles within the Service Cloud, enabling seamless support across channels.

Chatter Communities for Service

Keeping Chatter Up to Date

Salesforce is not content to sit back and rest on the widespread popularity of Chatter (the company says there are more than 150,000 Chatter networks around the world). In addition to the expanded functionality being rolled out at this week’s Dreamforce conference, back in May Salesforce introduced widespread availability of Chatter Messenger and Screensharing.

With Chatter, Salesforce says, users can engage in in-context conversations on one platform. The two new products go a step further and turn these “islands” of collaboration into an entire collaborative enterprise. The new products combined enabled IM, individual and group chat, chat presence and roster features, and the screensharing ability to share anything on their screens with their colleagues from a chat session.

Cross-Company Chatter IM Reportedly Ready

In addition, TechCrunch reports Salesforce will officially unveil secure cross-company instant messaging for Chatter this week. As mentioned above, Chatter’s current IM feature only works for users within a company -- there is no mechanism for performing IM with external partners from the Chatter platform. Expanded Chatter IM features would let users conduct IM communication beyond the corporate firewall.

TechCrunch mentions that the new cross-company IM feature would compete with established tools such as HipChat, Campfire and Grove, but would also offer “potential upside for companies already using Chatter…to consolidate instant messaging into one application” if they can get their partners to also use Chatter. Otherwise, TechCrunch warns cross-company IM “will be yet another communications tool to add to the stack.”

Chatter Communities for Service is currently scheduled to be available in limited pilot in fall 2012, and is scheduled to be generally available the second half of 2013. Pricing of Chatter Communities for Service will be announced at general availability.