By Tom Wong, Liz Kao, Matt Kaufman

Salesforce Chatter is easy to use just as soon as you install and open it, but it might serve you better to take a few minutes to read the manual, or this article. By spending a little extra time preparing, you can ensure a successful implementation of this powerful feature and ensure your standing as a Salesforce hero in your company.

Here are some key actions that are recommended for every Chatter implementation:

  • Get key executives of your organization to use Chatter. Engage executives early, help them update their profile (more on that later), and show them how easy it is to follow other employees. They’ll love the communication-improvement aspect of Salesforce Chatter and will encourage their employees to post regular updates.

  • Allow the most informational objects to be followed. If you have a popular product or brand, you might get hundreds of leads a day in Salesforce. Being able to track Chatter on leads is important, especially if you can selectively choose which records to monitor.

    Other types of records (such as Products) probably won’t change that often and thus not warrant tracking via Chatter. As part of your preparation, you have to determine which objects make sense to track for your business.

  • Prepare for the change. Your organization might not have processes in place to provide routine updates to management. People naturally resist change, especially change that embraces sharing what they’re doing.

    When you put together your communications plan introducing Salesforce Chatter, be sure to focus on the timesaving aspect and reassure people that it’s not a surveillance tool used by Big Brother. It’s meant to encourage collaboration.

  • Lead by example. Show users how to find and follow your profile. Then be sure to post status updates about the work you’re doing so that they can get a feel for how it works. You can even create polls via Chatter to encourage participation.

  • Establish basic posting guidelines. Your colleagues might already be used to an informal posting functionality of social networking sites, but before they post personal information in Chatter, set some basic guidelines. Here are some to get you started:

    • Keep Chatter updates related to business matters.

    • Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want to be seen by your CEO, HR department, or peers.

    • Never post confidential information that isn’t widely available elsewhere in your organization.

    • Keep statements constructive and professional. Leave the flame wars and boorishness to anonymous forums.

  • Provide training sessions and an FAQ. Education is the key to success for any Salesforce implementation. Training and documentation not only improve adoption but also ensure that users make fewer mistakes. The same holds true for implementing Chatter.

    It might seem easy to “just turn it on,” but if people aren’t all on the same page on when and how to use the tool, information that’s posted won’t be helpful, which will affect adoption rates.

  • An FAQ list is a basic question-and-answer document that your users can reference. In addition to the previous guidelines, you can include sample status updates (good and bad ones) and instructions on common tasks. You can also create a reusable e-mail template that includes your FAQ and guidelines.

  • Continue adoption. When new employees join your company, be sure to bring them onboard them with training, and review your FAQ and Chatter guidelines with them. This will ensure that they continue the success of your Chatter implementation and prevent any embarrassing mistakes.