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Two doctors at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit used Twitter
during a recent brain surgery to connect with more than 1,900 medical
students who were observing the complicated procedure from afar.
Salesforce.com is betting that innovative uses of microblogging will
lead to better customer service, through its new Salesforce CRM for
Twitter.

The new application will allow users of Salesforce.com’s popular
cloud-based CRM application to link directly to Twitter users, to
monitor customer feedback, experiences and complaints. The theory is
that linking the two cloud-based applications will improve
communications between businesses and users, and lead to greater levels
of customer service and customer satisfaction. Salesforce.com already
has a similar product and arrangement with Facebook, the leading social
networking site.

"Since its introduction in January, we’ve seen tremendous momentum
and validation from customers, prospects and partners that the Service
Cloud represents the future of customer service," said Salesforce.com
CEO Marc Benioff in a statement. "[This] announcement builds on this
momentum by enabling companies to join the conversations happening
between the more than eight million users on Twitter."

Salesforce
last week announced a new online training program to make it easier for
CRM users to adopt its CRM application, as well as make it easier for
developers to create modules for the SAAS CRM suite.

Salesforce.com is at a crossroads in its history. Founded by Benioff
a decade ago, Salesforce.com was among the first to preach the benefits
of cloud computing and software as a service. A pioneer of the SAAS
model, Salesforce.com recently surpassed the $1 billion mark in annual
revenues.

But in the last decade, SAAS has taken off and one-time naysayers of
the model—Oracle, Microsoft, IBM, Amazon—are now major forces in the
cloud computing and Web services world.

Analysts believe Salesforce.com’s alignment with social networking
services, such as Twitter and Facebook, will keep the company relevant
and sufficiently differentiated from johnny-come-latelys, such as
NetSuite and Microsoft.

"Customers are looking to the cloud for experts to help answer their
service questions. With more than eight million users, Twitter is a new
destination for customer conversations, yet most companies don’t have a
strategy for joining those conversations," said Rebecca Wettemann, VP
Research, Nucleus Research, in a statement. “Salesforce CRM for Twitter
and the Service Cloud provides companies of all sizes an efficient and
effective way to join the Twitter conversation.”

Solution providers may find new uses and customers with the
Salesforce CRM for Twitter, as the application will open new
opportunities for custom deployments and applications for the online
platform.

Salesforce CRM for Twitter is a free application scheduled for release through Salesforce’s Force.Com AppExchange this summer.