Business Is Social: Lessons From the Cloudforce Tour

If you want your business to be successful, it might be time to widen your circle of friends.

Marc Benioff talks at DellWorld 2011

In 2012, 70% of companies adopted social networking strategies.

“This has become the biggest driver for our industry,” Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO of, the enterprise computing company that’s dominating the customer relationship management (CRM) market, said Oct. 19 at the New York stop of the Worldwide Cloudforce Tour at the Javits Center.

“Business is social,” Benioff said, presenting his vision to more than 10,000 tech savvy attendees. “We want to evangelize you with that message.”

This is a social media evangelist worth listening to — Salesforce has been named the number one cloud computing company by Forbes for two years in a row, it’s the first enterprise cloud company to reach 3 billion, and it’s used by 70% of Fortune 100 companies — including giants like Estee Lauder, Coca Cola, and Toyota.

Below are some of Benioff’s tips for moving to the “cool kids” social media table:

Get on the cloud

According to Benioff, the “customer cloud” is where all valuable social connections should happen — from partners, to company employees, to products.

“I think CIOs have been focused in the last two decades on speeds and feeds,” Benioff said. “We’re moving into a new wireless network and cloud … Why do I need a server?”

With the movement from mainframes to servers to the cloud, technology is becoming cheaper and easier to use, he said. Brand preference is changing, too.

“Windows 8 will be the ‘gambit,’ and a lot of CIOs will face the choice,” he said. “Am I going to go to Windows 8, or something else?”

Go BYOD, mobile

With the rise of everything mobile and the drop in PC use, Benioff belives all workplaces of the future will go with a “BYOD,” or “Bring Your Own Device,” architecture.

The multi-device presence in the workplace is a prime reason why something like Salesforce’s new social mobile app will be imperative, Benioff said. It’s why the company is building a secure Dropbox-like feature to allow users to collaborate on files and content from anywhere on any kind of device.

Make friends, not advertisements

“The social revolution is a trust revolution,” said Benioff, explaining that it has brought forward a new level of transparency in business marketing.With social, “marketing is intimate, marketing is two way,” he said.

Benioff said he urges his clients to seek customers for life. Bottom line? Treat your customers like you’d treat your friends, and they’ll trust you more. You (hopefully) wouldn’t try to con your friends into buying something.

“Advertising is no longer about interruptions. It’s about amplifying,” said Benioff. The quality of content is important, too — you have to know your audience well in order to create something you know they’ll want to share.

 Get social in the workplace

When even Facebook takes a social media approach to managing their employees and facilitate community, it’s time to take note.

“Quarterly, six month, year reviews are not good enough,” said Salesforce’s Workforce Executive VP John Wookey. “We need to motivate our people to align them.”

Salesforce’s cloud allows current employees to refer a friend for a position with social media profiles, lets employers tie “badges” to Amazon giftcards to reward employees, and improves workplace collaboration.

Give products personality

Who says you can’t be friends with your car? Building trust isn’t just about connecting people with people. Benioff pointed out the importance of making your customers connect to products, too.

That’s why Akio Toyoda took Benioff’s advice, and designed the new Toyota “Friend.” Not only does the car communicate with the driver through a “Service Cloud” feed, but drivers can Facetime with agents for personalized help.

“Customers don’t want to leave their lives behind when they get into the car,” points out Andrew Fyke, Toyota’s enterprise architect. “We’re on a road of connectedness to our vehicles.”

Foster community

According to Benioff, “150 million conversations per day … are happening on networks [between customers].”

As companies foster discussion within their own customer networks, it creates a sense of community that strengthens the brand’s presence.

“We see [our clients’] businesses becoming like our business … their values — trust, growth, and innovation — those are our values, too.” Benioff said.

Image courtesy of Dell/Flickr

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