Conference Coverage

Salesforce unveils a slew of social products at Dreamforce conference

Albert McKeon

SAN FRANCISCO -- Backed by catchy videos, scores of punchy graphics and his flashy red shoes, Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff on Wednesday unveiled a string of new products that aim to significantly extend the reach of the well-known cloud-based software company.

During a three-hour-long keynote address at the company's annual

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Dreamforce conference, Benioff connected the dots -- and the functionality -- between new and longstanding products in an attempt to place Salesforce in the driver's seat of the ongoing social media movement.

Supported by glossy testimonials from executives at General Electric, Burberry and Yelp, the loquacious Benioff forcefully implied that Salesforce's array of offerings will transform the workplace with social media, much as Bill Gates modernized software and Steve Jobs transformed mobile devices.

"This social revolution is going on right now," Benioff said "It's unlike anything we've experienced before."

Citing various statistics -- including the staggering figure of 150 million daily social media conversations between customers and companies -- Benioff went for the hard pitch. Salesforce, he said, should be the platform of choice for businesses intent on connecting with customers across a variety of disciplines.

But Benioff didn't stop there. Not only should people capitalize on social media, but machines should as well, he said. In one of the many video testimonials shown at the keynote, General Electric Global CIO Charlene Begley spoke of a machine-to-social connection that included humans. The CIO explained that GE service techs use Salesforce's Chatter to have real-time conversations on improving fuel efficiency in airplanes.

Benioff, with the help of several company executives, then slowly unveiled a slew of new and revamped Salesforce products that greatly attempt to expand the company's reach in the workplace.

First among these products is Work.com, a social performance management offering that represents a rebranding of technology that Salesforce acquired when it purchased Rypple, a human resources software company, last December.

Work.com won't be available until later this year. It will allow companies to reward job performance with real-time feedback and performance reviews that are embedded with sales, service and marketing tools.

Following up on his recent call to make Salesforce a leader in cloud marketing, Benioff introduced a revamped Marketing Cloud. The product combines Salesforce's social listening platform, Chatter, with technology from another recent acquisition, the social marketing tool BuddyMedia.

The company also made a move into the territory of Dropbox and Box by introducing a file-sharing service for businesses. Called Chatterbox, the new product allows companies to upload and share files across devices, including mobile platforms.

Not to be confused with Chatter or Chatterbox, Chatter Communities for Service is another new product. Billed as a "Facebook for partners," it opens a private social community for business people to communicate with company experts and industry peers.

Salesforce also introduced Touch, an HTML5-driven tool that carries forward the company's dashboard of products to Apple's iOS devices, Android products and other mobile platforms.

For programmers, news came of Heroku, a Salesforce company, offering a new service for companies to build and run Java applications in the cloud.

Lastly, Dreamforce uncovered Social Key. This product allows customers to grab social data from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs, and link it to phone numbers and other basic contact information.

Most of the products unveiled at the show will become available between later this year and late next year.

Following the Dreamforce keynote, Gene Alvarez, an analyst for Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc., said Salesforce has positioned itself to make good on Benioff's goal of being the leading cloud-based social enterprise.

Salesforce, Alvarez said, has demonstrated strength in what Gartner calls "the nexus of forces" in commerce: social, mobile, cloud and information.

But social media still isn't the perfect business solution, Alvarez said. Companies "have to be careful about how these things fit together," he said.

Related Topics: Salesforce CRM, VIEW ALL TOPICS

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