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Benioff Says the Cloud is Passe

Last week at Salesforce’s Boston Cloudforce event, CEO Marc Benioff is moving on beyond the cloud and called it passé. Really?

Yes, social and mobile networking has more buzz, and more business practice and applications these days. But hasn’t the cloud enabled all these social apps to begin with? And isn’t it ironic that Salesforce.com, which got its start even before the words “cloud computing” were first applied to its use of Web-based CRM applications, is now saying that the cloud revolution is over? Hardly.

Benioff cited Gatorade using various social media monitoring tools to stay current with what its customers are saying about their products, and how they realize their brand value can change in a moment. “They realize their brand has become a series of real-time conversations,” he was quoted as saying during his speech, not memories of past advertisements that may or may not have run on television. Many companies have similar “listening rooms” to track Twitter, Facebook and YouTube postings that mention their names or that of their competitors, and respond quickly to what has been posted. I’ve been to a similar room at Dell’s headquarters outside of Austin, Texas that is a a sexy cross between an air traffic control tower and a TV production studio (see the photo below).

“The biggest misnomer is that you have to be physically present in the room to listen to the social Web,” says Manish Mehta, Dell’s vice president for social media and community. “We have others located around the company and indeed, around the world who are monitoring and participating in these conversations.”

The social media listening and command center may or may not be appropriate for how marketing is done in other companies. It depends how they are organized or want to organize for social media, as well as the volume of conversation about their business, products and services. Dell, for example, sees tens of thousands of mentions world-wide each day.

Back to Benioff, he outlined three steps for businesses to become a more socially-oriented enterprise. First is making full use of social networks like Facebook, You Tube and Twitter. Second is creating private social networks for employees, partners and customers using software like Salesforce Chatter or any number of other microblogging tools such as Yammer or Socialtext. And third is developing social networking capabilities for enterprise applications using Salesforce development tools such as Heroku, the platform-as-a-service provider they acquired last year.

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