Dreamforce: Salesforce and Facebook [podcast]

Salesforce.com announced a data sharing partnership with Facebook today. Only time will reveal whether it's a marriage made in heaven or an example of what happens when worlds collide.

Salesforce.com announced a platform partnership with Facebook today at Dreamforce, its annual user conference, that will enable Facebook developers to write and run their applications on the Force.com enterprise cloud.

During a press conference following the announcement, CEO Marc Benioff commented the partnership is intended to increase "stickiness and reduce customer attrition." Strategically for Salesforce, this partnership is about extending its cloud in every direction, including to consumer-oriented social networking. Only time will reveal whether this combination is a marriage made in heaven or an example of what happens when worlds collide.

To learn more, I spoke with Saleforce.com's Clara Shih, AppExchange Product Line Director, and Dave Morin, Facebook's Senior Platform Manager. Steve Gillmor, from the Gillmor Gang and TechCrunchIT, joined me for this interview.

Offering clues to both company's efforts to enhance social and business applications for their products, Dave used the phrase "work-based social information flow," while Clara spoke about viral applications in an enterprise business context.

Benioff made clear there's no reason this integration couldn't also be accomplished with Facebook competitors such as MySpace and LinkedIn. Asked why Salesforce started with Facebook, Benioff replied:

Facebook was ready for us technically and philosophically. We didn't have to do a lot of heavy lifting to make this happen.

Salesforce.com and Facebook: Should you care? [podcast]

It's also worth noting that this announcement is complementary, rather than competitive, to Oracle's Social CRM. This partnership is about reaching consumers through viral word of mouth and social information sharing. The Oracle product uses consumer-style user interfaces and workflows in the service of traditional CRM. These goals are not the same.

My take. This announcement will appeal to joint customers of both companies, especially those that are business-to-consumer organizations. Salesforce customers not serving a large consumer segment may find the announcement somewhat confusing and irrelevant, since suddenly their business vendor is proudly involved with a decidedly consumer partner. Those customers can safely ignore the announcement and their Salesforce world will remain unscathed and unchanged.

On the other hand, those Salesforce customers desiring to reach out to Facebook users will find the announcement to be most welcome.

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If you care about social media and enterprise software coming together, the podcast is required listening.

Note: Steve Gillmor recorded a video of this interview over at TechCrunchIT.

[Thanks to David Swain, Facebook's Manager for Product and Platform Communications, for coordinating this podcast. Photo of Marc Benioff and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg by Michael Krigsman.]

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