Salesforce is desperate for more of the world to get wired up with little sensors, so it can get at this data and hook it into its suite of technologies, then sell companies on the benefits of an increasingly data-led sales strategy.
This lust for an instrumented world was outlined by Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff in an expansive, fuzzy (cloudy?–Ed) speech at an event in San Francisco on Tuesday.
"This idea – that everything is on the network and everything is wireless and everything is on these high-speed LTE networks – is the third wave of computing," Benioff said. "It's transformational."
By instrumenting the items around us – fridges, jet engines, cars – companies can get better data on how products are being used, and can use this information to sell more items and learn more about how their business works, Benioff said.
The chief executive was confused as to why more companies were not embarking on a social network strategy for their connected products. "If I'm on Facebook, why is my car not my friend?" he said.*
To deal with the shift to the "mobile, social, cloud" world, companies will need to be better aware of their customers' needs and opinions, said Benioff, before saying Salesforce has embarked on a transformation into a "customer company."
One example of how a customer company can work differently to its forebears can be found in the recent kerfuffle between The New York Times and Tesla Motors, Benioff said, noting that because Elon Musk had instrumented his company's vehicles, he was able to back up his disagreement with the NYT with data culled from the car used in the review.
Social.com plugs Salesforce into social networks
To help Salesforce make money off of this shift to mobile, connected devices, the company is putting more of an emphasis on getting data in and out of social networks.
The launch of Social.com on Tuesday sees Benioff and his minions create an integrated ad-slinging and data-gathering package for social networks. The technology gains more features if customers pair it with Saleforce's customer relationship management (CRM) suite and its Radian6 social listening products, as well.
If you don't work in advertising, then all this announcement means is that companies now have a way to better launch, track, and target ad campaigns to hit key influencers – so woe betide you if you've got a profile on any of the social networks and you make IT buying decisions.
Social.com brings a sack of new technologies to advertisers that want to crowbar their brand messages into the mind's of punters, including tools for creating, testing, and launching large social ad campaigns, tracking their performance over time, and automating ad spend.
It can integrate directly with Twitter and Facebook, removing some of the steps it previously took to launch ad campaigns on these networks.
"We know that marketing has always been about the moment – it's about understanding the moment is happening, creating that moment, and capitalizing on it," Adam Bain, Twitter's president of global revenue, said at the event. "Twitter is a series of 'now moments' across the world."
As the internet of things, social networks, and search companies like Google inexorably digitize the analog world, companies like Salesforce have a major opportunity to grow their business by letting marketers and ad-slingers sift through this data and get to consumers.
With Social.com, Salesforce is making sure that brands can get as close to consumers as technology allows. If the idea of this turns your stomach, just wait till tech like Google Glass is ubiquitous – we're sure Benioff will make a speech about the importance of brands getting onto users' eyeballs, as well as their screens. ®
We don't know what this means. We suspect it has something to do with being able to talk back to brands via social networks to offer advice and opinions on products. Why you would want this unless you're the head of a company that sells social tools, we're not sure.