Salesforce Pushes The "Social Enterprise" At Dreamforce Conference

Software-as-a-service vendor Salesforce.com is introducing a number of new services to enable companies to use social networks to understand their customers and their employees, as well as to improve their businesses. The "social enterprise" was a big theme pushed at this week’s Dreamforce 2011 conference in San Francisco. While the company is developing new services to use social networking tools in order for companies to be competitive, a survey of attendees shows that some still have re

September 2, 2011

4 Min Read
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Software-as-a-service vendor Salesforce.com is introducing a number of upcoming new services to enable companies to use social networks to understand their customers and their employees, as well as to improve their businesses. The "social enterprise" was a big theme pushed at this week’s Dreamforce 2011 conference in San Francisco. While the company is developing new services to use social networking tools in order for companies to be competitive, a survey of attendees shows that some still have reservations about the practice.

Salesforce CEO and Chairman Marc Benioff compared the revolutionary impact of social media on business to the revolutionary impact of social media on dictators during this year’s Arab Spring uprisings. In his keynote, he showed photos of protesters in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya holding signs that thanked Facebook for helping them organize their protests.

"It’s not too long from now that we’re going to hear about a Corporate Spring, an Enterprise Spring. We’ve seen Mubarak fall, we’ve seen Qaddafi fall. When will we see the first corporate CEO fall for the same reasons, because his or her customers are rising up or because they’re not listening to their employees?" Benioff asked.

In pushing the social enterprise mantra, Benioff and other executives touted new features--many based on the Salesforce Chatter internal social network platform the company introduced two years ago--in a keynote program. However, most of the services announced won’t be available until winter 2012.

Among them are tools to develop customer social profiles based on information gleaned from the social networks customers use--primarily, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. More than just customers who friend a company on Facebook or follow a company on Twitter, companies could scan social network profiles for opinions and other information consumers have on their products and services.

"We’re taking advantage of the open APIs from the public social networks, and we’re feeding that information into Salesforce," said Dan Darcy, VP of product marketing for Salesforce. "But it’s not just the public social networks. We’ve built the social profile from every corner of the business, the sales cloud, service cloud, your back-end systems like order management and third-party apps on the App Exchange."

A Salesforce spokesperson clarified that companies could obtain Facebook information only from customers who had essentially friended the company into their Facebook lists; the same restrictions would apply to LinkedIn. Twitter, however, is completely open to the public.Today Salesforce customers use Chatter to socially network with employees and partners, but enhancements will also allow customers to be invited into an employee Chatter group to serve as a sounding board for company decisions. In addition, customer service operations could be enhanced with a social media option so customers could tweet their questions and customer service reps could tweet back responses.

Salesforce demonstrated how a wide range of companies--Groupon, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, NBCUniversal, Verizon and others--are using Salesforce-based SaaS offerings to become a social enterprise.

A survey of some of the 45,000 people registered to attended Dreamforce 2011 showed that Salesforce was preaching to the choir, although not everyone is on the same page of the hymnal.

The survey, conducted by a company called Appirio, revealed the following: 42% of respondents defined the social enterprise as "engaging and marketing to customers on public social networks"; 38% said Chatter is the social app they used most often at work, while Facebook and LinkedIn came in second and third, respectively; 67% said they’d like Chatter integrated with Facebook or LinkedIn, while 24% said e-mail; and, when asked where they would rank their company on a scale of 1 to 5 on its social enterprise strategy, 50% responded, "Somewhere in the middle."

A recent survey by the consulting firm Bluewolf--not directly related to Dreamforce--showed a mixture of appreciation for and reservations about social networking as a business strategy.

Sixty percent of those surveyed by Bluewolf believe that "every business" needs to be social, while 61% of respondents list social media strategy as a "high priority." But concerns businesses have about social media revolve around management and ownership of social media (58%), employing the proper metrics and proving value (54%) and a loss in productivity from spending too much time on social media (27%).

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