Social Media Experimentation to Shift to ROI Justification

SAN FRANCISCO—Salesforce.com's debut of enterprise file-sharing solution Chatterbox this week at Dreamforce hints at the cloud software company's further foray into powering the social enterprise.

Employees who store files and documents in the cloud using Chatterbox can simultaneously update the status of a project or file right within the enterprise collaboration tool Chatter. Employees can then collaborate on work assignments in real time. Chatter has also been extended to the Service Cloud for direct customer interaction.

Discussing Chatter as the backbone of Salesforce.com's new Chatter Communities for Service solution, Leslie Ament, vice president of customer intelligence research and client advisory services at Hypatia Research Group, remarked that "I would assume [Salesforce.com] is repurposing applications for business processes.

"If Salesforce comes up with a Chatter 'platform'…that can be interesting for enterprise play," Ament told CRM. But, she added that "budget is usually owned by line of business function, and it depends on who owns the budget and who is in the driver's seat [for example, sales, marketing, or customer service]. The fact that they [are tapping into Chatter] for each of the modules is interesting. It gives customers choices."

Commenting on Salesforce.com's launch of Marketing Cloud, which combines the social marketing capabilities afforded by the Radian6 and Buddy Media acquisitions, allowing companies to listen and respond to customers, measure performance, and tap into social advertising, Ament noted Salesforce.com's integrations with companies like Marketo and Silverpop. Eventually, her estimation is that "the roadmap may well include other marketing partners that are part of the Salesforce.com ecosystem."

In an interview with CRM, Heidi Melin, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Eloqua, discussed the company's latest product release, Chatter Inside Eloqua, and also noted that the company has already plugged in to Marketing Cloud. Marketing Cloud allows Eloqua to "take the information and data from social listening, connect it to demand, and [then get it] out to the lead management process," she said.

A recurring theme at Dreamforce was that chief marketing officers will increasingly make technology-purchasing decisions; the very nature of customer service solutions has been turned upside-down because the customer's voice has been amplified by social media. Unilever, for instance, uses Buddy Media and lets customers customize their own social ads on Facebook.

"If I could predict [what will occur next] in the industry, 2012 and 2013 will be when companies move away from social experimentation and into ROI justification," commented Rob Tarkoff, CEO of Lithium Technologies, a developer of social communities and social marketing software. "There is behavior change and transformation. It's 'How can I do this in a way that makes money?' I think there will be a lot more scrutiny."

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