Salesforce.com developers getting social with Facebook apps for enterprise

Salesforce.com developers are creating Facebook apps for the enterprise. Learn what this means for the social networking site.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Salesforce.com is partnering with the social networking site Facebook to bring together the ideas of Facebook's 120 million users and Salesforce.com's 10,000 developers.

"We need a new world where these platforms can come together," Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff said in his keynote at this week's Dreamforce user conference. "Now you can build social apps for the enterprise."

The new suite of tools, dubbed Force.com for Facebook, will allow developers to power business applications with social data. Those who create applications on the Facebook platform can use Facebook Connect to further develop those apps with data from Facebook APIs, which they can access directly within Force.com's Apex Code. The new apps can connect directly to Force.com Sites' databases, integration, Apex programming language and Visualforce user interface capabilities.

Using Force.com for Facebook, developers can also find help, or people to collaborate with, on a job or project.

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"Salesforce.com always shows you really interesting things before anyone else," said Bruce Richardson, chief research officer at Boston-based AMR Research, in a recent interview with SearchCRM.com. "If you look at some of the things we take for granted now [like mashups], they have been doing that for years."

Facebook has grown as much in the past three months as it did in its first three years, according to Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer for the company, who joined Benioff on stage for the announcement. Facebook signed up 30 million users in the past three months to bring its total user count to 120 million. The site, founded by a student at Harvard in 2004, has grown into a social outlet for people of all ages. The partnership with Salesforce.com opens doors for Facebook to be used as a business platform.

Users discover Salesforce.com Ideas on Facebook

In March 2008, Starbucks Coffee launched a website called My Starbucks Idea. The site is built on a Salesforce.com product called Salesforce Ideas, which allows employees and customers to post and vote on ideas and discuss them with one another.

According to Chris Bruzzo, CTO and CIO of Starbucks, more than 65,000 ideas have been generated since the launch of the My Starbucks Idea website. (One idea – which was demonstrated at Dreamforce – is a coffee stirrer that doubles as a plug to keep the hole at the top of the Starbucks cup from overflowing. This is being used in some Starbucks outlets today.)

"We're just a small coffee company," Bruzzo joked. "But [seriously], as the company has grown, you lose connection with customers. Ideas [allowed] us to connect with our customers again."

A keynote demonstration showed how Facebook can open doors for Salesforce.com initiatives like My Starbucks Ideas. If Starbucks customers post their ideas in My Starbucks Ideas on Facebook, their friends will instantly get updated about the ideas through Facebook feeds. Those friends can vote on or discuss the ideas directly in Facebook, post their own ideas for Starbucks, or browse other ideas that have been posted, without leaving the Facebook interface. This gives Starbucks access to an entirely different – and perhaps more meaningful – audience than their website does.

As Bruzzo said, Facebook will allow Starbucks to get more personalized and local by allowing the company to connect with smaller audiences, but it will also help get more visibility for My Starbucks Ideas.

Force.com for Facebook is available today in Salesforce.com developer preview.

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