At Dreamforce, Salesforce.com revealed its latest social media push to a crowd of 50,000 on-site attendees and 40,000 Web viewers.
Gathering a host of keynote speakers that included Salesforce.com chairman and CEO Marc Benioff, Richard Branson, and Jeff Immelt, CEOs of Virgin Group and GE, respectively, the theme of the cloud computing event was "Touch the Social Enterprise," and Salesforce.com's slew of product announcements were true to the tagline.
At the event, Salesforce.com introduced Chatter Communities for Service, on target for general release by mid-2013. Essentially, the solution combines Web self-service and peer-to-peer communities to help companies collaboratively connect with customers. A similar offering, called Chatter Communities for Partners, was launched for distributors, resellers, and suppliers.
"A few of the community vendors are pretty hot right now, and it becomes, 'Do you spend the money [to acquire] or just try and build something that's attached to Chatter?'" remarks Michael Fauscette, group vice president of software business solutions at IDC.
Salesforce.com also revealed the Salesforce.com Marketing Cloud, which marks the next chapter after its acquisitions of social marketing and monitoring platforms Buddy Media and Radian6.
Marketing Cloud enables users to connect information and data through social listening with demand and lead management. "It's great from a visibility standpoint," comments Heidi Melin, chief marketing officer at Eloqua. With Marketing Cloud, users can manage and optimize social ad campaigns, push social content, and identify and engage brand advocates within Salesforce.com.
"From a social marketing perspective, it's a pretty good offering," Fauscette adds. "[Salesforce.com] spent a lot of time over the last few years beefing up the Service Cloud side, but marketing was always kind of the open piece."
In addition to the Marketing Cloud, Salesforce.com invested in its Sales Cloud. "You can tell that Salesforce.com is] starting to focus more on, 'What does the salesperson really need to be more effective?'" Fauscette observes. "They did the content management piece a few years ago, but now they're doing more around getting tools into the hands of salespeople."
In addition to its new HTML 5 Touch technology—which allows developers to deploy an app on any device and salespeople to access their CRM systems on mobile devices—salespeople now have access to Social Key within Data.com, which enables users to connect social profile data with customer and account records.
Some analysts suggest that the most compelling news at the show involved the Force.com cloud developer platform. "If you look at it, there are real ways for independent software vendors to use the platform and to have embedded social, which may be even larger than some of the [product news] that was announced," Fauscette remarks.
More than 2.3 million custom apps have been built by customers, and more than 1,600 apps have been developed by partners thus far using the Force.com cloud developer platform. One such partner, Concur, developed a tool called Trip Maximizer for its travel and expense management app that socializes trip planning using collaboration tool Chatter.
Clearly, Salesforce.com has presented its customers with a variety of options. But as Leslie Ament, vice president at Hypatia Research Group, points out, "having so many choices is always a double-edged sword for customers and software providers" and requires Salesforce.com to carefully point customers in the right direction for their particular business requirements, cultures, and growth plans.