Salesforce.com unveils Social Key, Chatter communities, Marketing Cloud

The cloud computing vendor is kicking off the Dreamforce conference with a slew of new product announcements

Salesforce.com on Wednesday is set to unveil a series of products for mobile computing, social collaboration, social analytics and marketing during the Dreamforce conference in San Francisco.

Perhaps the most technically ambitious product to be announced is Social Key. This will build upon Salesforce.com's Data.com service, which provides business contact data for lead-generation and other sales purposes.

Social Key, which is now in development and set for general availability in the second half of 2013, will tie data from social networks "with traditional data like employer and phone number", giving companies "the data perspective necessary to develop deeper connections with customers," according to a statement.

"We think it's going to get a really great reaction at Dreamforce," said Michael Peachey, director of solutions marketing.

In addition, Salesforce.com plans to announce a pair of portal products based on its Chatter social collaboration and messaging service.

Chatter Communities for Partners will allow Salesforce.com partners to build private, branded community sites for their products and services, while Chatter Communities for Service will do the same thing for customers' customer-service operations.

While Salesforce.com already allowed some semblance of these capabilities upon the release last year of customer groups for Chatter, the new portals provide an "optimal experience," Peachey said.

The idea is to give customers a single place to find answers to questions online. It will also "deliver a unified customer service experience that lets companies seamlessly deliver support across channels, even if the case begins in social media, and is resolved in a service community," according to a statement.

A mobile Web application will also be available for portal access, Salesforce.com said.

Both products will enter a limited pilot program over the next few months and are expected to be generally available in the second half of next year. Pricing hasn't been finalized.

Also as of Wednesday, Salesforce.com's Touch mobile user interface will be generally available, initially on the iPad, with Android and iPhone support coming soon. Salesforce.com built Touch in HTML5, and has been getting "great feedback" from early customers, Peachey said. Touch, "a fully mobile sales application," comes as part of a customer's Sales Cloud subscription, Peachey added.

About 85,000 people have registered to attend Dreamforce, according to the company, although that number may be boosted by the fact that Salesforce.com provides free admission to show keynotes.

There's no questioning Salesforce.com's growth rate, however, as its on tap to hit US$3 billion in annual revenue soon.

Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff is set to discuss these announcements and others during a keynote address later Wednesday. Benioff recently spilled the beans on other news announcements planned for Dreamforce, including the company's pending forays into identity management and online backup and file sharing -- functionality now provided by partners such as Okta and Box.

Dreamforce showgoers should also get a closer look at Salesforce.com's recently announced Marketing Cloud, which brings together social media advertising and analytics software gained through the acquisitions of Buddy Media and Radian6.

Companies are actively pushing out advertisements and looking for insights through social media, but are doing so in piecemeal fashion across dozens of separate Twitter feeds, Facebook pages and other channels, said Rob Begg, vice president of marketing for the Marketing Cloud.

"While customers have found social data insights to be useful they want to act on that and convert them into customers in the same platform," which the Marketing Cloud will provide, Begg said.

Salesforce.com plans to tighten the integration between Buddy Media and Radian6 "in layers, over time," Begg said.

The Marketing Cloud is generally available now with pricing starting at US$5,000 per month.

There's still room for Salesforce.com partners that have already been selling marketing software, Begg said. "If a campaign starts on social but ends on a website, that's where our partners come in. We're really focused on social marketing."

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

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