Salesforce.com and Facebook just became a powerful alliance in the marketing and advertising space.
Salesforce today unveiled Service Cloud 3, the company's "next-generation" social contact centers, which it says will let companies engage with customers on "any social community" and across "any channel."
Service Cloud 3 gives companies the ability to monitor and capture conversations about their brands taking place in Facebook wall posts, Twitter streams, blogs, and forums and create cases for a customer-service agent response.
Not all of those features are live yet, and Salesforce for Facebook, perhaps the most promising of the offerings, won't be ready for another year, Salesforce.com said.
Salesforce is formalizing, and hopefully, simplifying, something many companies do already in a manual, jury-rigged manner -- monitor, respond and provide customer support through social media exchanges, the company told PCWorld's Chris Kanaracus.
Until recently, social media monitoring was mostly the province of marketing staffers, Kendall Collins, chief marketing officer at Salesforce.com, said in an interview before the event.
But now, "the marketing and service worlds have never been closer," he said. Social tools have given customers much more power to influence companies' brands, Collins added. "It's a little bit of a scary thing for people in marketing to see your brand going over those walls, but it's happening whether you like it or not."
Radian6 for Salesforce, part of the Service Cloud 3 lineup, extends that functionality to the unstructured social network -- blogs, forums and discussion groups.
While it's long overdue and a great relief for businesses keeping an eye on social chatter, more meaningful might be Salesforce.com's next move -- hinted at in the advances from Cloud 2 to 3.
Facebook + Salesforce = Universal CRM
Functions like Social Analytics and the integration across "Any Channel" have the potential to turn the Web into a universal CRM. TechCrunch's Leana Rao writes:
...Service Cloud aims to capture crowdsourced pools of knowledge floating across the internet, combine this data with CRM functionality and provide a platform for commercial customer service, potentially replacing traditional on-premise contact center technologies which are disconnected from knowledge (i.e. social) that can be found in the cloud.
And deep integration with Facebook, as indicated in this announcement, would be imperative for anyone trying to build crowd-sourced CRM. So much of that brand conversation happening on the Web -- especially influential peer-to-peer recommendations -- is happening behind the Facebook wall.
Google has all the pieces to build a powerful CRM solution including the relationships (Gmail, calendar, tasks and profiles) and data mining ("Organize the world's information"). And Google may be already prepping a CRM entry, reports MemeBurn's Lauren Carlson. But Google is missing that all-important access to the conversation on Facebook and don't expect it to gain that access. Facebook has the data.