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Adam Seligman on social business

.net: The internet is always changing. What should business owners be really tuned into?
The major disruption we’re seeing in the business world right now is the shift to social. That’s what businesses need to be tuned into. The way consumers are using apps has changed the way they interact with companies. This ranges from basic interaction on social platforms, to really harnessing the power of the internet to create global experiences for consumers. We’ve all seen the stories about unhappy consumers taking to Twitter to complain about a brand’s products or services, which most businesses are dealing with right now. But at the other end of the spectrum we have Red Bull, which used social to create a beautiful experience for billions of people with Stratos.

.net: So what’s making this shift happen?
The developers who make the apps. They’re the ones who take the overall trend and translate it for individual businesses, and make it a reality. At we’re passionate about this shift to social, and have created a platform and set of services to help developers take advantage of it.

.net: Who is actually doing social business?
There are a few brands pioneering social business and really driving innovation. Burberry’s flagship store on Regent Street is a great example: they are putting social at the heart of their business to create a digital end-to-end solution called Burberry World, all built on the Salesforce platform. Virgin is another example: they are using Salesforce Chatter, our enterprise social network, to create a personalised in-flight entertainment system based on information from passengers’ social profiles.

As well as these amazing innovations, there are plenty of other examples where businesses are using smaller apps built on existing platforms. Betapond has developed a Facebook app for the Unilever Foundation and PSI’s Waterworks programme, which is the first time recurring payments have been enabled on mobile through a Facebook app.

It’s great to see so many different things being done on our platform, and the momentum in the enterprise app market is amazing. On the AppExchange,’s enterprise app marketplace, there are now 2.5 million apps. We have 800,000 developers in the community with up to 1,000 signing up on a day. The community is really building, and we have great partners like Tquila, Bluewolf and Appirio driving it. The result is a new economy for developers – an average developer earns $5,000 per consumer app, but that leaps to $400,000 per enterprise app on the AppExchange. The opportunity is clear.

.net: The theory of social business sounds great. But how do companies actually put it into practice at a system level?
The start of everything needs to be wherever your customer information is stored – be that sales, marketing or customer service, it all centres on the user. From there you can build the architecture, which should always be cloud-based. With the rise of the social business, what we’re seeing is a shorter release cycle for apps, which is fuelling the rise of pre-built apps as well as native apps. Your key focus will always be improving customer experience; therefore this should always be the starting point.

.net: For developers, is it back to school to learn new skills?
You can build on what you already know – that’s the beauty of modern frameworks, as nothing is thrown away. Developers can build on their existing Java library and apps, use multi-language, open source, Ruby on Rails, and so forth. You can take your existing apps and wire them for the Facebook consumer graph and the Chatter enterprise graph. The rulebook has been thrown out! Developers just need to strip down all the things that get in the way of bad apps, and focus on the user experience.

The brilliant thing is that learning these skills is now community-driven. Our developers use Developer Force as a platform to share code and find information, as well as arranging meet-ups. So rather than back to school, I’d say developers need to focus on three things: learn about the new frameworks; get into the cloud; and get an app in the app store. We’re seeing such huge demand for skilled enterprise app developers right now, but the number within the industry isn’t increasing, so we want to make it as easy as possible.

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