Salesforce.com deepens ties with Facebook

Users of Salesforce.com CRM and customer service software will now be able to start new cases from a Facebook comment or Wall post

Salesforce.com is deepening the integration between its CRM (customer relationship management) and customer service software with the explosively popular social-networking site Facebook, Salesforce.com will announce on Thursday at an event in New York.

With the upcoming capability, Facebook "Wall" posts and comments can be converted into a new customer service case within Salesforce.com's system, allowing an agent to proactively tackle issues, Salesforce.com said.

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The feature is similar to one Salesforce.com already released for the Twitter micro-blogging service.

To handle all of this social media-related monitoring and case tracking, Salesforce is also rolling out a new "optimized, tabbed" console for agents.

Along with its own new tools, Salesforce.com also plans to announce a partnership with Radian6, maker of a "listening platform" that companies use to track their brands across a broad variety of Web channels. The Radian6 integration, which will be available on Salesforce.com's AppExchange, will also feature automated case creation.

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."

No company "wants to be the next social media casualty," Fergus Griffin, vice president of service cloud product marketing, said before the event. "Service grievances are aired in public. "

Griffin alluded to incidents like the Twitter tirade unleashed by film director Kevin Smith after Southwest Airlines removed him from a flight because he was considered too big to fit safely in a single seat. Southwest later apologized.

In addition to the social media announcements, Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff is expected to discuss on Thursday a range of other customer service-related improvements in areas such as live chat and knowledge base article access.

The new Facebook capability is set for availability by the end of April; current Professional, Enterprise and Unlimited edition Salesforce.com customers will receive it for no charge.

Radian6 for Salesforce is expected to enter a closed beta by the end of April, and be generally available by the end of October.

Overall, Salesforce.com's planned announcements represent the vendor's continued attempts to broaden its reach beyond the CRM software for which it is best known. Other recent new initiatives include Database.com, a pay-as-you-go database service that taps Salesforce.com's underlying platform.

Salesforce.com is facing increasingly stiff challenges for that core business from the likes of Microsoft and SAP, which is planning to release a next-generation CRM application later this year.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com.

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