Introduces Service Cloud 3 introduced Service Cloud 3, the latest version of its cloud-based customer service platform, designed to leverage social networks such as Facebook.

NEW unveiled its Service Cloud 3 platform March 3, coupling the announcement to a high-profile event at New York City's Javits Center headlined by CEO Marc Benioff.

The third iteration of Salesforce's cloud-based customer service platform lets businesses analyze and respond to customer feedback filtering from social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. The company claims those businesses will be able to manage immense amounts of data through those channels.

Should a customer Tweet or post a Facebook message about a company's product, and that company uses Service Cloud 3, employees will be able to click on a dashboard tab labeled "Social Conversations" and see that customer's missive in real-time. Employees can also monitor broader swaths of data, via dashboard metrics such as "Twitter Volume by Product" or "Cases by Channel."

In addition, employees can also escalate a customer's case for their colleagues' attention, and post a solution to a particular issue on a Facebook wall or Twitter. Salesforce has also begun leveraging mobile devices' video-conferencing features, notably Apple's FaceTime, to allow customer representatives to resolve an issue in a more face-to-face way.

The introduction of Service Cloud 3 comes as part of a rapid cycle of product releases from In September, the company unveiled Chatter 2, the next version of its Chatter collaboration platform, which allows employees to post comments and share files in a Facebook-style environment. In December, it unveiled, a standalone cloud database for IT pros creating applications.

For some time, Salesforce has advocated the presence of social media tools within the enterprise. In late 2009, the company introduced for Twitter, which allows customer service personnel to monitor public conversations about a product. Through its AppExchange 2 storefront, users can also download apps such as Chatter Mass Follower and Chatter Live Tag Cloud.

"We're standing on the shoulders of these consumer giants," Benioff told the audience during his keynote, referring to Facebook and similar companies.

He then described a recent trip to Davos, and a conversation with Craig Mundie, Microsoft's chief research and strategy officer. "I said, you're an expert in our industry: If did not exist, how many servers would our 100,000 customers have to buy?"

Mundie apparently did the calculations. "He said, you know, those customers might have to buy 200,000 to 300,000 PC servers," Benioff said. "That's the power of the [cloud] model."

Benioff has spent the past few months trading barbs with Oracle CEO (and former boss) Larry Ellison, who is also determined to move his company aggressively into the CRM and cloud space. In addition, Microsoft has also made no secret of its designs on cloud-based enterprise software.