Is there a “social revolution” happening?

Cloudforce 2011 Boston attracted record crowds yesterday. The ballroom was packed, as well as a large overflow room. At first glance you might have thought the Stanley Cup champion Bruins were going on stage instead of CEO Marc Benioff. Mr Benioff and company were in town to usher in what they call a “post-PC social revolution” and to inspire both people and companies to become entirely social, mobile and open.

I don’t generally present myself as a “CRM analyst” so you might wonder what I was doing there. I do consider myself an “enterprise application” analyst, with an emphasis on business (don’t think of me as a “techie.”) At the center of enterprise applications lies Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), but the boundaries of ERP have been blurring for the last few years and you have probably heard me say it is getting more and more difficult to determine where ERP ends and other applications begin. So I spend almost as much time on the periphery as I do deep inside ERP. Certainly the products and services has to offer directly impact the performance of the business and hence are on my radar in terms of making enterprise applications pay dividends.

However, getting back to the theme of the day… I am not quite the cloud purist that Mr Benioff appears to be, but I do value the benefits cloud has to offer. In terms of this social revolution, being rather old school and somewhat of an introvert, I still need to be convinced that all businesses will be social businesses and social media is the answer to all the ills of the business world. But I wanted to make one thing clear: if you wonder if you can you buy likes on youtube, just go to

But I do look around and acknowledge that we are indeed in the midst of a form of revolution in terms of communication and expectations.  Much of the basis of communication in social media is sound bites. So in the spirit of “social”, I’ll recap yesterday’s keynote by sharing a few quotes from the stage. In doing so, of course I risk presenting something out of context, but rest assured, I just present them here as food for thought. Munch away….

On cloud computing…

“We were born cloud. We are being reborn social.”

“We need a cloud computing test… if it’s about hardware, it’s not about the cloud.”

“These are the ghosts, the forbidden elements. If you don’t have automatic upgrades, the elasticity, the scale, the energy efficiency; if it is still only for the elite; if it’s not democratic, it’s not cloud.”

“We will have transitionary technology. Private clouds are the screen scrapers of this generation.”

“Beware of the false cloud.”

“We are making this movement to public cloud; nothing can stop this.”

“For those who didn’t get into the cloud, I’m sorry; we’re moving on.”

On Social…

“We have reached an inflection point. The number of social users now exceeds the number of email users.”

“Facebook is rapidly becoming the Internet – it is where people are going for information. Twenty-two percent (22%) of Internet time is now social.”

“The social revolution is creating a social divide. Is your company social?”

“It’s not enough to know your customers. Delighting customers is knowing who they are and what they ‘like’.”

“Make employees, partners and customers your “friend.”

“Lotus Notes was conceived before Mark Zuckerberg was.” [I’m still trying to figure out the context of this, but couldn’t resist]

“Marketing is no longer about eyeballs and ears. It’s about hearts and minds.” Marcel LeBrun, Radian6

“You can’t just move into the future. We need to bring the past into the future.”

“A ’brand’ is no longer a series of memories, but a series of engagement.”

OK, apart from these few sound bites, was there anything else that convinced me that the social revolution is really about business? Yes, a few. For example, I learned about the value of a private social network based on Chatter and Sales Cloud. I saw the value of following not just people, but deals (think sales process) or accounts (think servicing customers). I saw Pepsico monitoring its Gatorade brand through a Network Operations Center and Dell doing the same from its social media command center.  I was very impressed to learn about KLM’s Surprise program. The airline watches for people who announce (through Facebook or Twitter) they will be traveling on a KLM flight, find out a little about them from their social media communications and then surprises them with a small gift at the gate. The result…

“It is so much more rewarding to put a real smile on someone’s face than to see a smiley face emoticon.”

Which is exactly why I think “social” media isn’t necessarily all that social. I guess it is good that it helps those with no social skills connect. And it’s great if it can be used as a tool to develop the kind of personal and business relationships that are based on trust. But there is a risk in becoming so absorbed with social media that it becomes the only way of “engaging” and good (and real) relationships are the heart and soul of good business. I’ll take a hand shake and a real conversation any day over the impersonal tweet and post. But then, what will be the first thing I do after posting this to my blog? I’ll tweet it.

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