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Salesforce.com: Less cloud, more social

The on-demand CRM vendor brought it roadshow to Toronto to explain how social is changing business software

Salesforce.com brought its social enterprise roadshow to Toronto in June, pushing the message that it will continue to move well beyond its rooms as a hosted customer relationship management (CRM) vendor.

The San Francisco-based company has deepened its base in Canada recently with two acquisitions here in just over a year. It bought Fredericton, N.B.-based social media monitoring firm Radian6 in March 2011 for $326 million. And it acquired Toronto-based Rypple, which makes a social enterprise platform for employee performance tracking and reviews, in December 2011. Both firms continue to be based in Canada. About 6,000 of Salesforce.com’s 100,000 global customers are located in Canada.

Speaking to over 3,000 customers and partners at the Toronto event, Salesforce.com chairman Frank van Veenendaal said although Salesforce.com started out as a cloud-based CRM provider, it wants to harness the mix of mobile, cloud and social networking that has taken consumers by storm via Facebook and Twitter, and extend it into the enterprise to offer a full suite of business services beyond just CRM.

(RELATED STORY: Salesforce.com says stage set for cloud 2.0)

“Your customers are social. But is your business social?” van Veenendaal asked the crowd.

The key, he said, is to translate the success of social media from the consumer market to the enterprise.

To do that, Salesforce.com has added a social component on top of its cloud CRM products to offer new platforms for internal workforce communication, staff performance review and motivation (courtesy of Rypple), social media monitoring (by way of Radian6), marketing and customer service.

Although Salesforce.com has spent years hammering home the fact that it’s a subscription-based provider of enterprise services in the cloud (its logo still features the company’s name inside of a cloud graphic), the word “cloud” was barely uttered during the two-hour keynote, replaced instead by the term “social” at almost every turn.

With the hype around cloud quieter than it was a year ago, and concerns about privacy, security, outages and regulatory compliance still swirling around the cloud, Salesforce.com seemed intent on rebranding itself as the enterprise provider of all things social at the Toronto event.

Salesforce.com treats the Canadian market as part of its North American channel program.

In an interview following the keynote, Salesforce.com’s Canadian marketing vice-president Renny Monaghan said one of the key components of the company’s channel strategy is to partner with experts and consultants from sectors outside the IT realm, such as sales, customer service and social marketing.

One recent example is a deal unveiled in February with U.S. investment industry giant Charles Schwab. It teamed up with Salesforce.com to develop two integrated office and CRM solutions for independent investment advisors.

Another major channel stream involves allowing third party developers to build their own apps onto existing Salesforce.com platforms, as with its Force.com offering.

“From a channel perspective, it’s very important that the platform be open (to outside developers),” Monaghan said.

A cornerstone of that model is Salesforce.com’s online app marketplace called AppExhchange. Once developers have built their own app based on the Salesforce.com platform, they can market it to Salesforce.com’s customer base through AppExchange. It can also be used to find and license any app based on the Salesforce.com platform, plus hire a developer or consultant from among those partnered with Salesforce.com.

Follow Christine Wong on Twitter: @thatchriswong