Salesforce.com launches social media pilot for enterprises

“Social is one of the most powerful forces on the planet right now,” says Salesforce.com's David King.

Salesforce.com hopes to bring social media into the enterprise with the launch of Salesforce Communities. The product launched last month as a limited pilot and is scheduled for general availability in the middle of next year.

Google also recently announced an attempt to bring social media to the enterprise. It’s currently previewing a business-flavored Google+ providing tighter administration and sharing controls.

Salesforce Communities combines Facebook-like features including profiles, groups and news feeds with business information through the Salesforce platform, letting enterprises create private social communities to connect with customers and partners.

Following a major shift to mobile, “now we believe we’re in the midst of another transformation which is the shift to social,” David King, a senior director at Salesforce.com told Computerworld Australia. Social engagement should include not only employees but also business partners and customers, he said.

“Companies today no longer operate in a vacuum," said King. "[They] have to become social enterprises. Social is one of the most powerful forces on the planet right now; we’ve seen it lead in the consumer world with Facebook and Twitter, but now businesses must embrace it as well."

Companies that aren’t totally connected to what their customers are thinking get beat up on social media, he said. “If you don’t listen, you run the risk of having dissatisfied customers.”

According to King, businesses are “at various stages of comfort with social media. “When we talk to our customers, they see the power of building community” but want to do it in a more private setting," he said.

Many businesses today provide a fragmented experience separating social from business processes, King said. They have discussion boards “that are all about the conversation” and a separate enterprise portal that has transaction and shipment information but lacks collaboration tools. With Communities, Salesforce is trying to bring the two platforms together, he said.

Communities has an open API that can be connected to the company website or other social media, and it also supports mobile devices, King said. Communities provides Facebook sign-in authentication to simplify registration for users, but doesn’t send information back to Facebook, he said.

The Salesforce Communities user interface resembles the look of Facebook, a trait that King himself acknowledged. “Facebook really trained all of us as consumers on the user interface of the future, which is the feed and the profile,” he said. “We borrowed the best of the social web as far as design, but we really pioneered it for the enterprise.”

Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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