Salesforce renames and revamps Communities service

Salesforce.com has renamed and updated its Communities product, which lets companies build social websites where employees, partners and customers can mingle and collaborate.

Now called Salesforce1 Community Cloud, the service has been updated in several areas including the profile and topic pages, and its mobile access.

“We believe communities are the battleground for customer engagement,” said Lisa Hammitt, vice president of business operations for Salesforce1 Community Cloud, which has been available for about a year under its previous name.

Companies using the product include British Sky Broadcasting, Cornell University and GE Capital. About 2,000 communities are running sites on it, prompting Salesforce to “double down” on its efforts.

IDC expects the enterprise social networking (ESN) market to grow from $1.24 billion [b] worldwide last year to $3.5 billion [b] by 2018, an annual growth rate of 23.1 percent. IDC’s definition includes software for both internal and external collaboration.

Competition among ESN vendors is tough. Other big players include IBM, Microsoft, Jive Software, Tibco, Zimbra and SAP.

As the name suggests, ESNs let businesses build social networks where employees, customers and partners can post status updates, view activity streams, share documents and collaborate in other ways.

Salesforce entered this market with its Chatter product, which initially was focused on internal collaboration, but which has since also been integrated more widely across the company’s CRM suite to provide social features. Chatter technology powers Salesforce1 Community Cloud as well.

The product now provides profile pages that users can personalize more deeply and that prominently display updates and information about each member’s content, groups and interests. The profile pages feature members’ endorsements and reputation ratings, so that others can learn about their expertise.

Salesforce1 Community Cloud has also been more tightly linked to the core Salesforce CRM system, and it’s now also possible for community site administrators to optimize their pages for search engine visibility, as well as grant public “unauthenticated” access to visitors who find their site via search results on Google and other engines.

The mobile aspect has also been fine-tuned so that community sites can be built with responsive design techniques and can be properly formatted on the fly to different screen sizes. The service is also accessible from the Salesforce1 Mobile App.

New features slated for October include pre-built templates and a site design tool for non-technical community managers. The price for Salesforce1 Community Cloud is remaining the same: US$500 per community, per month.

Beyond product enhancements, Salesforce is also announcing that Deloitte Digital has a new practice with about 2,000 consultants devoted to working with the Salesforce1 Community Cloud.

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