Faceforce kickstarts the social business app movement
by Charlene Li
I'm in the midst of writing a chapter on the enterprise use of social technologies and I noticed that Salesforce.com employee Clara Shih (an AppExchange Product Manager and author of the AppExchange blog) has teamed up with a software engineer at Facebook, Todd Perry, to create FaceForce. This AppExchange app integrates Facebook profiles *into* Salesforce -- so it's not really a Facebook application so much as it's tapping into Facebook's APIs. Jeff Grosse has an excellent write-up and a Flash demo is also available from Clara (BTW, she's pretty darn smart).
For those of you unfamiliar with AppExchange, it's the equivalent of Facebook for the enterprise. Outside developers can create custom applications that sit on top of Salesforce, for example, enabling politicians to use Salesforce to manage their campaigns. So it's very fitting that Salesforce and Facebook join forces here to integrate their services.
Here is a screenshot from Jeff that shows the Contact page within Salesforce with the Facebook integration. Note that you can interact with many of the Facebook features -- yes, you can even poke Marc Benioff.
The result: we'll see more and more people using Facebook for business purposes, driving Facebook sign-ups in the process. Let's say you're a typical marketing person in a B2B company -- why on earth would you join Facebook if you're friends aren't on there? Well, maybe your customers are and if you're a Salesforce subscriber, you may have just hit the jackpot. You have to first find and friend your contacts before you can see them in Salesforce. What if they aren't Facebook members? You'll ask them to join.
And that will change the nature of Facebook, for better or worse. I've already resigned myself to the fact that I will have two Facebook accounts -- one that is public facing and another with my private email address where my "real" friends are. Take a wild guess which one is more active -- yup, my public account. (This is partly because my most of my friends aren't on Facebook yet, and partly because I'm already too busy living my public life on it to invest in my private Facebook network.)
But I also think Faceforce doesn't go far enough -- yet. Sure, I can see Facebook information inside Salesforce, but the real power of social networks in a business context, as LinkedIn has shown, is the ability to find and connect with new people. While there is a LinkedIn AppExchange app, it inserts Salesforce information into LinkedIn, not the other way around. What I want is something like Visible Path that would help me trace relationships between contacts, but overlaid on top of Facebook's social graph.
What's that you say, privacy is a concern? Well, not if you use Facebook correctly. Marc Benioff and I have several friends in common -- I can see this by simply comparing my friends list against Marc's. Ideally, Faceforce would automatically tell me this, exposing the various connections between me and Marc (yup, this is something that LinkedIn does automatically). The key would be to build a referral request into the existing options in the Lead screen (again, thanks Jeff) include "Find Lead on Facebook" and "Invite Lead to join Facebook" when it should also include "Ask for a referral to Lead on Facebook".
So there's been a lot of talk about the business use of Facebook, and the example above points to a fundamental flaw with Facebook -- it's not really geared to make referrals easy because of its historical closed network structure. Building truly useful social business applications on top of Facebook's social graph -- regardless of whether the app resides in Facebook or outside of it -- needs this
It is still very, very early in the Facebook and social network application space, and even more so on the enterprise side. I can imagine further initiatives that use widgets to bring Facebook and LinkedIn information into enterprise environments like Microsoft's Sharepoint and IBM's WebSphere. If you have other ideas of how social business applications and integrations will manifest themselves, I would love to hear about them. Add your thoughts in the comments or email me.