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11/30/2011
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Salesforce.com Steps Past CRM, Into Social Marketing

Radian6-powered services help companies capture, decipher, and respond to customer interactions across Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks.

Salesforce.com took the next step toward becoming a new-era marketing player on Wednesday by announcing the Social Marketing Cloud, a collection of services aimed at helping companies to manage their brands and engage with customers across social sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

The Social Marketing Cloud is the product of Radian6 (now Salesforce Radian6), the cloud-based social media monitoring service acquired this spring. The services are aimed at a business discipline that is rapidly changing.

In the old marketing paradigm, companies tightly controlled their messages and customers lined up at stores and Web sites to do business with trusted brands. In the new paradigm, customers trust the opinions of friends and the wisdom of the crowds online; marketers must listen and respond, spotting influencers, advocating their brands, and lining up to meet customers where they live on Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere online.

"It's a shift from buying lists and broadcasting your message to listening and engaging with customers," said Marcel LeBrun, senior vice president and general manager of Salesforce Radian6.

[ Want more on the maturation of a cloud innovator? Read Has Salesforce.com Graduated To The IT Big Leagues. ]

Not all the services and partnerships envisioned for the Social Marketing Cloud are in place yet, but Salesforce is clearly filling out its marketing portfolio as it promised to do when it acquired Radian6. This push into what Salesforce calls the social enterprise has raised the company's profile from a mere provider of cloud-based CRM to an innovator that is helping brand-name companies change the way they do business. High-profile firms including Southwest Airlines, PepsiCo, and UPS are among the more than 2,500 customers said to be using Salesforce Radian6.

The Social Marketing Cloud, which was set to be announced Wednesday at a 10,000-attendee-strong Cloudforce event in New York, comprises five core services: Social Monitoring, Social Insights, Social Engagements, Social Hub, and Social Websites.

Social Monitoring is built on the foundation of existing Radian6 social listening capabilities designed to capture and manage brand-, industry- and competitor-relevant comments across popular social networks. The existing monitoring capabilities have been enhanced with support for new languages.

Social Insights is a new service that uses automated natural language processing and text analytics technologies to interpret and segment large volumes of social network comments in an automated way. Partners will provide the most advanced and specialized capabilities though a built-in apps store. For example, a partner app from Klout measures the influence of commentators on popular social networks. An app from OpenAmplify deciphers intent expressed within comments, such as intent to buy, travel, attend an event, or change service providers. An app from Thompson Reuters' OpenCalais identifies entities within comments, such as products, albums, movies, places, or people.

A company might use the basic Social Insights service to segment tens or hundreds of thousands of brand-relevant comments by positive or negative sentiment. You could then segment the positive comments using OpenAmplify to spot intention to buy. And as a final step, you could examine the comments of would-be buyers using the Klout app to segment by social network influence. Send a promotional campaign to a select group of influential would-be buyers, and you just might spark a wave of purchases as followers hop on the bandwagon.

Social Engagements is where authorized sales, service or public relations specialists can respond to comments expressing interest in buying, requesting help, or lodging a complaint about a product or store. This service is built on an existing Radian6 Enagement Console, but it adds a Facebook Management feature that lets companies manage comments on corporate Facebook fan pages. The Engagement Console has also been integrated with Salesforce.com; with one click, users can turn a social network conversation into a sales contact or service case in Salesforce CRM.

Social Hub, which is currently in limited release, is a workflow and business process automation engine that will automatically route high volumes of comments into appropriate sales, service and marketing queues. Business rules can be set whereby a comment known to mention a specific brand and determined to be a request for help (as might be spotted by the Social Insights service) could be automatically turned into a case and assigned to a specific product support team and service queue.

Social Websites provides cloud-based Web content management capabilities through Salesforce.com's Siteforce system. The new service includes the ability to integrate trusted social network comments into appropriate areas of a Web site. A catalog page, for instance, might be enhanced with relevant customer comments about specific products.

Social Marketing Cloud services are optional to Salesforce.com customers. Core Salesforce Radian6 Monitoring capabilities start at $600 per month. Social Insights partner apps start at $60 per month. The Social Hub is not yet generally available, but it will start at $1,200 per month. Siteforce is $9,900 per year.

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