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Salesforce.com adds Twitter to cloud services

The company's Service Cloud 2 option brings Twitter-based customer service options to its clients now and will bring knowledge bases and forums later.

Salesforce.com promotes software as an online service.
Salesforce.com promotes software as an online service. Stephen Shankland/CNET

For companies that want to turn all that customer carping on Twitter and Facebook into something more constructive, Salesforce.com is bringing some new services to its cloud-computing infrastructure.

Salesforce.com, which sells Internet-based services as an alternative to business software companies install on their own computers, has added new Twitter and crowdsourced tech support options to its foundation for customer service work.

The Service Cloud 2 options, announced Wednesday, will give new Web-based options to those who pay Salesforce.com to run their customer-support infrastructures. About 8,000 clients use the earlier Service Cloud option, Salesforce.com said, and Chief Executive Marc Benioff used the announcement to tout his company's cloud-computing philosophy:

"With two-thirds of customer service interactions moving to the cloud and the popularity of social networks, it is high time for a change," Benioff said in a statement. "The customer service market is being held back by traditional technology."

Twitter integration automates manual processes for monitoring the microblogging site for finding tweets related to customer-service issues, engaging in support conversations using Twitter, and tracking that conversation. The service is a free add-on, available now, for Professional, Enterprise, and Unlimited Edition customers for the Force.com AppExchange service.

The company also announced Salesforce Knowledge, a service to bring company knowledge bases--think high-end frequently-asked-questions pages--onto the Web. It'll cost $50 per month per customer support representative starting in the fourth quarter of 2010. It's based on technology from Salesforce.com's 2008 acquisition of InStranet.

Also coming is Salesforce Answers, which lets companies set up forums where people can pose questions, answer them, and rate the answers. The service also integrates with a Facebook fan page. It'll arrive in the first quarter of 2011, the company said.