Benioff Flees Facebook in Search of Peace

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has quit Facebook and shut down his account, sparking speculation as to his motives.

Is Salesforce at odds with Facebook? Is Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg no longer Benioff’s BFF?

"It's not you, it's me." Explaining to @sherylsandberg tonight why I left Facebook.

— Marc Benioff (@Benioff) September 30, 2015

Is Salesforce planning something with Twitter?

“I’m on a FB pause,” Benioff posted on Robert Scoble’s Twitter account, in response to his query. “It was too overwhelming to keep up to date on TWTR and FB after Dreamforce. I needed to reduce.”

Asked by Scoble why he deleted his account instead of just taking a break, Benioff replied “Just too much. Desiring peace through simplicity.”

Benioff’s move drew applause from some.

“I suspect that the systems that work for regular folks break down when you hit a certain level of fame, wealth and media,” commented Shannon Clark.

Facebook “sucks time like nothing else,” said Robert Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

“At some point, it almost feels like a full-time job, and I’m kind of surprised any CEO has time for it and that firms don’t block it as a matter of policy,” he told CRM Buyer.

What About Chatter?

Facebook “is not a tool for enterprise business and the effort needed is effort wasted,” remarked Alan Pelz-Sharpe, a research director at Strategy Analytics. “I think [Benioff] was right to delete his account.”

Wasted? Really? Salesforce’s Chatter feature is modeled after Facebook, so isn’t Benioff shooting himself in the foot?

Chatter “is a very different beast, as the social networking conducted on Chatter is tied to a measurable business process — closing a deal, supporting a customer and so on,” Pelz-Sharpe told CRM Buyer. The driving forces behind social as a tool for general outreach and a tool for specific controlled task and process activities are very different.

Regardless, Benioff’s move “does showcase what could be an excessive burden [imposed] by all social networking tools,” Enderle suggested. “Think of them as far more pervasive watercoolers that are far harder to get away from.”

Many people, “especially those who are very visible, can become overwhelmed by social media and may have to step away from it or hire others to manage it so they aren’t overwhelmed,” Enderle said. “Being driven by any communications tool is a really bad idea.”

Many rich people and celebs prefer Twitter because it’s more manageable and doesn’t require heavy engagement, Scoble pointed out. That includes Facebook board member Marc Andreesen, who only posts on Twitter.

Scoble himself prefers Facebook, but that’s because he wants to build a community of tech-passionate people who are building companies and new technologies.

The Death Knell for Social CRM?

Benioff’s move raises the question of whether social CRM, once a hot button for marketers, has been relegated to a minor role.

Tracking the customer experience — the customer journey — is crucial to businesses, and customer feedback is inadequate, according to Thinkjar. Social CRM allows for truer responses, letting a corporation better learn what customers are thinking.

“Social CRM seemed like a very good idea — building communities of customers, potential customers and so on,” Pelz-Sharpe said, “but the rewards are slim compared to the effort required to make it work.”

Improving internal process activities gives enterprises far more bang for the buck, he added.

Outward-looking social CRM “still has value, but the value today is more in the data analysis you can derive from the community activity than from actually building relationships and a community,” Pelz-Sharpe explained. “People may love your product community — but if Amazon sells the related product for 25 percent less, they are off.”

The best practice today is to “only friend actual friends on Facebook, and ignore the rest,” Pelz-Sharpe advised. “Use LinkedIn for any business-related contacts.”

Richard Adhikari

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

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