Salesforce Introduces Upgrades To Community Cloud

From London, where it's hosting the latest leg of its World Tour, Salesforce on Thursday revealed upgrades to its Community Cloud designed to empower managers of social business forums to better drive collaboration with their customers, partners and employees.

The new capabilities planned for the June release include algorithms for generating targeted recommendations to members, templates called Lightning Builder enabling point-click-drag-drop page building and file-sharing integration with Google Drive, said Mike Stone, senior vice president of marketing for Salesforce's Community Cloud.

"It extends their ability to create a customized community as far as their minds can reach," he told CRN.

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With those capabilities, the community managers who administer social business groups will be able to more effectively launch custom pages, curate content, share analytics, understand trends and foster dialogue between peers, according to Stone.

Salesforce's Community Cloud was first released two years ago in a direct response to requests from users of Chatter, the CRM vendor's social platform, to extend the social features beyond the confines of their own businesses.

Community Cloud is divided into three types of groups, each with slightly different capabilities: Customer Communities, Partner Communities and Employee Communities.

The clouds aim to combine systems of record with systems of engagement, Stone said. Historically, that was usually done with a portal -- a single-purpose method with many shortcomings, including a poor mobile experience.

All aspects of the Community Cloud, including the features revealed this week, were built from the ground up on the Salesforce1 platform, an approach that lends itself to greater scalability and tie-in capabilities, Stone told CRN.

"We're really pushing this idea of intelligence," Stone said of the new analytic capabilities. "Now that you have these vibrant communities with all this content, how do you ensure when a new user comes by they can find information really quickly?"

The Lightning Builder will help those managers customize and deploy self-branded pages featuring unique components, without needing any assistance from the IT department, he said.

To simplify the sharing of files within the communities, Salesforce is expanding Files Connect, which currently only works with Microsoft SharePoint and OneDrive, to Google Drive, enabling a more expansive repository search, he said.

Mike Micucci, senior vice president of product management at Salesforce, explained, "It's all about us analyzing the content, serving up the best people, the best recommendations."

The Partner Communities Cloud has special features designed for vendors to communicate with their channels, Micucci told CRN.

"What we see a lot with partner communities is they involve a lot more data. That’s probably the biggest difference," Micucci said.

Vendors can take advantage of the social forums to make it easier for their partners selling into a particular industry to get recommendations for new products, learn about sales and training opportunities and confer with their peers, Micucci told CRN.

As moderators, the vendors also can expose or restrict specific groups in their channel to leads when fostering collaboration around deals, and decide if partners can communicate with each other, he said.