Salesforce.com Brings Facebook and Twitter's Social Capabilities to Businesses

Social media platforms Facebook and Twitter have no doubt revolutionized the way people communicate in social settings, and now Salesforce is trying to bring those same tools into the workforce. While LinkedIn is designed for individuals at different companies to connect and network, Salesforce.com's new social platform looks to make communication within companies more efficient.

At Salesforce.com's annual Dreamforce conference today in San Francisco, the cloud computing company announced "Salesforce Chatter," a new service for its 63,200 company clients and the million and a half employees who use the system. They call it a "secure enterprise collaboration application and social development platform." What that means is that employees will be able to set up profiles to establish their work relationships online. Users can subscribe to feeds from people, applications, and even from Twitter and Facebook. People can also join groups to collaborate on documents or to brainstorm ideas.

Some examples: if a handful of people at CNBC are working on a one-hour special, we could form a "chatter" group about that special. We'd have Facebook-style feeds updating the group on everything related to the special, when guests are booked or when members of the group travel out of town. Or a bank could use Chatter to communicate with their financial planners. This one-way communication would allow the bank to tell investment managers when they've changed their outlook on the market or if they're recommending a certain stock. All this without crowding e-mail inboxes.

Salesforce Chatter is due out in early 2010, and though it will be included in some of Salesforce's company packages, individuals will also be able to just sign up for Salesforce Chatter, Content and Force.com, for $50 per user per month. This isn't cheap, especially compared to Facebook and Twitter, which are free. What they're paying for is the security and the integration into their other Salesforce platforms.

With this new product Salesforce is competing with business communication and collaboration software from Microsoft , IBM , and even Cisco , which recently announced its online collaboration offering. Salesforce is going after a bigger audience - every employee at a company could use this information and collaboration system, whereas its sales and service platforms are focused on a narrower group of workers. The question is whether an investment in social collaboration software and services will prove worth it to cash-strapped companies.

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