Companies will not combine data from different sources for analytics purposes to an extent where customers are alienated, according to Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff.
Businesses that use too much information gleaned from social networks to inform sales and marketing relationships will suffer reputational damage from customers broadcasting their dissatisfaction, Benioff said at a press conference in London on Wednesday.
"Customers are putting more information on networks than ever before," said Benioff told ZDNet UK at the Cloudforce 2011 event press conference in London. "If companies break that line then customers will tell them on the public network."
Benioff added that companies using social networking data for analytical purposes needed self-regulation to safeguard user privacy, rather than government intervention.
Technology from Salesforce, including Service Cloud, allows users such as KLM to scrape social networking data from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to gather information on KLM customers. KLM used information gleaned from the public domain to populate databases with personal information about customers, for marketing and sales use, Salesforce revealed in Benioff's Cloudforce keynote on Wednesday.
US computer company Dell also uses Service Cloud, and Chatter capabilities to build social networks with customers. Businesses that delineate social networks by building private social networks, as Dell does, will be unlikely to damage customer relationships, chief executive Michael Dell told ZDNet UK on Wednesday.
"We have to understand what our customers want us to do," said Dell. "We have all sorts of private, secure collaboration that you will not find in public. We draw a distinction between public and private social networks."
Dell said that it was not unusual for the company to have 50 or 60 people "deeply engaged" with a customer in a social network.
Employers can use the Chatter tool to monitor employee performance in real time. Last year, at the launch of Chatter mobile, Benioff said he had monitored employee performance using the tool, and shrugged off questions about 'Big Brother'.
On Thursday, Dell said that none of his employees had opted-out of using Chatter. "[Chatter use is] pretty much voluntary," said Dell. "It's been the opposite of pushback — we get a lot of folks say 'Thank you for giving us these tools to make us more effective'."
Companies must establish clear boundaries of both internal and external communications and use of social networks, analyst Bola Rotibi of Creative Intellect Consulting told ZDNet UK at a Cloudforce roundtable.
"You have to provide clear guidelines in the way data should be shared," said Rotibi. "Whatever you do, you have to understand the behaviour of the company."