Slack vs Chatter

07/14/2016 by Jason Atwood (he/him)
A look at two collaboration tools where they overlap and some best practices for when to use them.

It seems like there is a new collaboration tool with each day, as the king of collaboration (email) gets shunned more and more. For this exercise I am going to look at Salesforce Chatter comparing it to the much newer Slack. First, let's start with the old dog.

<announcer voice> In this corner... </announcer voice>

Chatter Me Up

Salesforce Chatter was sprung on us at Dreamforce '09 (yes, that long ago) with a big reveal during the keynote. At first it was just a simple way of commenting on records such as a Lead or Opportunity, something that Salesforce lacked. Over the years Chatter has gotten pretty sophisticated with groups, approvals, actions, email replies, license types and even a desktop application. For a few years there it felt like the whole company was going to become Chatterized. In the new Salesforce Lightning, it looks as if Chatter will take a less prominent stance in the screen real estate, but lives on. At its core, Chatter is a very sophisticated threaded commenting system with lots of added features but very Salesforce specific.

No Slacking

Slack was launched at the end of the summer in 2013 and quickly became the darling of the venture capital community a year later. A lot of the initial marketing was around getting away from email by using the instant communication platform. Slack was born on the web, but has dedicated applications across tons of platforms, including most desktops. It has a robust set of APIs and applications (bots) that extend the functionality greatly (email) or just make things fun (Giphy). At the core it is an instant messaging application with lots of added functions like voice, channels (groups), and direct messaging.

When to Use

Since we use both platforms here at Arkus, a lot of discussion (in both platforms) centered around when to use which and why. Both have more than a few overlapping features so it became easier once we drew the line in the sand and pointed users in the right direction. Here is our takeaway on when to use each and why.

Chatter Excels

Chatter is best used for longer term collaboration around Salesforce records that have a more structured business process. For example, when reviewing an Opportunity or providing updates, Chatter excels. The data is relevant to the thing you are referencing, it is historical in nature in that it stays with the record and inherits the permissions for more concise collaboration. While Slack is great at communicating back and forth about something, it lacks the context and conversations can go all over the place, lost in the stream.

Slack Excels

Slack is best for instant personal communication and group collaboration. It is easy to set up private and public channels, it has awareness as to who is online and if others are responding in real time. Slack is much more cross-platform as all of the applications work seamlessly together. Get a note on your iPhone, respond on the desktop, Slack picks up where you left off with what you missed, something that Chatter is very bad it doing. One of the best features of the Slack platform is managing notifications at a device or channel level. For example, I might only want to get notified of new posts when mentioned or in one on one direct messages, but not in the big #General channel that is full of noise (and Giphy). What Slack lacks is context to the data in Salesforce and more structured conversations. Slack channels can quickly fill with nonsense, which doesn't happen in Salesforce as often.

Learning From Others

Both platforms could learn from each other as both offer things that the other could improve on. Chatter could learn from Slack's use of the command line and key commands for quickly navigating and using functions. Chatter is way too dependant on a mouse to get around. Slack could learn from Chatter's structure and context around a process that makes information easier to absorb.

Do you have other ways of using Salesforce Chatter or Slack? Share them on our Facebook page, in the comments (neither Slack nor Chatter) below, in the Success Community, or directly @JasonMAtwood.

Brandon Oelling says:
Mar 26, 2019 12:30 AM

Chatter had its promise: to unite conversations around an individual record in Salesforce – so long as everyone was in Salesforce, and everyone else cared about that record. Everyone had to be in Chatter. But conversations have a fluidity to them that Chatter struggles with – and this is where Slack takes over:

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