Salesforce.com, the cloud software firm primarily known for its service aimed at helping companies track their sales efforts, said today it will make a significant push into a new area of service and help companies manage how they communicate with customers on the Web.
The Salesforce Community Cloud will allow companies to create a presence on the Web for the purpose of customer support and service, but which will also be directly tied to the information those companies have on their customers.
It’s not a new product per se. Companies like Honeywell, GE Capital and Key Bank are already using it. Salesforce first launched Communities two years ago amid the craze for social enterprise software, just as Yammer, a prominent player in that market, was acquired by Microsoft.
Salesforce sees a big opportunity, and cited an estimate by the market research firm IDC, pegging the addressable market for social enterprise software as being worth about $1.2 billion last year and growing to north of $3 billion within four years.
The basic idea behind these social-enterprise apps is that they allow companies to communicate and collaborate in a manner that more closely replicates the experience of social media sites, but with an emphasis on work and business processes. Think LinkedIn, but just for your company, its customers and important business partners.
Companies like Jive and Yammer emerged to fill the perceived opportunity for these apps, but the market is kind of fractured. IBM led it with a share of about 14 percent of the market last year. Salesforce has been more of a bit player, coming in at about four percent. Its Chatter social service emerged in 2011 and proved popular with existing Salesforce customers.
But Salesforce says its presence is growing fast. In a conversation on Tuesday, Nasi Jazayeri, Salesforce’s executive VP and general manager of Chatter, said the company has seen 2,000 individual communities deployed in the last year, an average of about five per day at companies both large and small.
What are they using it for? Take the example of retailer Home Depot. It used the Community Cloud to create a site devoted to helping customers with their home-improvement projects, but also to communicate with employees at its 2,200 stores around the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
“The point is that we’re really doubling down on this,” Jazayeri said. Along with that, Salesforce has teamed with Deloitte Digital, the creative arm of the consulting firm Deloitte, which said it will devote some 4,000 consultants to helping Salesforce customers put the Community Cloud to use.
Salesforce shares ticked up a bit in pre-market trading after the announcement was made. The shares are up by about eight percent this year. This release comes ahead of Salesforce’s big Dreamforce conference in San Francisco in the fall.
Also worth noting: Jive, a Salesforce rival in the social enterprise business, announced a big upgrade to its suite. Earlier, networking giant Cisco Systems replaced its own social collaboration tools with Jive and became a reselling partner. This upgrade is the first to take advantage of that integration. Where Salesforce’s efforts are tied directly into the main CRM application, Jive’s are integrated with products like WebEx for online meetings and Jabber for messaging. For the moment, Jive is leading Salesforce in this business, and commands more than twice its share of the market. Clearly, Salesforce would like to change that.