Some years back Salesforce.com CEO Mark Benioff suggested that the company would stick to what it knew best, cloud-based customer support and relationship management, rather than branching out into other areas and competing with partners who build specialist apps on top of Salesforce. But this week at the Dreamforce conference, Benioff announced services for HR and recruitment, including managing employee performance reviews (and offering Amazon gift cards as employee incentives) with Work.com and Chatterbox (a Dropbox-style cloud storage and sync service). Additionally Salesforce also announced the full release of the Marketing Cloud social network advertising and monitoring service plus ways to use a Salesforce user ID to log into other services and apps.

Impress your boss and they can give you points on Work.com; and points mean prizes like Amazon gift cards…
Impress your boss and they can give you points on Work.com; and points mean prizes like Amazon gift cards…

Businesses are using social media in work

Benioff explained the change in approach was due to Salesforce customers asking for more services; in particular Facebook encouraged Salesforce to buy Rypple and develop it as Work.com. Marketing Cloud is also popular with Facebook; Benioff says it's already managing some 10% of Facebook's ad spend.

The common thread is using social features at work, whether that's for reaching customers or connecting employees, or even collecting information from products; the engines General Electric is building for Boeing Dreamliner planes deliver status updates while they're flying the plane. "You could have a social network around a turbine or a CT scanner," Benioff suggests

Salesforce Touch for mobile development

Salesforce also announced the availability of Salesforce Touch; tools for building Salesforce smartphone and tablet apps in HTML5 or native Android and iOS code. In fact Mike Rosenbaum, who runs the Salesforce App Exchange where partners sell apps that run on Salesforce, told TechRadar that developers "need to start thinking about mobile first. We are increasingly accessing these services through mobile devices. I use our expense reporting app on my phone and iPad far more than I do on the desktop."

Virgin America already uses the Facebook-look Salesforce Chatter service to let flight crews and gate staff communicate using iPads; CEO David Cush says that will soon extend onto the plane and connect to Chatterbox so Virgin America staff on the ground can send messages to passengers through the seatback screens (think a map to help you get to the right gate if a delayed flight leaves you short of time to make a connection, rather than annoying adverts).