Salesforce’s new streaming service

Streaming service.

Original programming.

On-demand content.

Which brand would you recall if you heard those phrases?

Netflix? HBO Max? Amazon Prime Video? Disney+?

How about Salesforce?

Nah, I’m not joking.

Salesforce announced a new streaming service on August 10, 2021, called Salesforce+!

Where/how could you subscribe to Salesforce+? And consequently, what do you get to watch on Salesforce+?

Salesforce+ doesn’t require a subscription. The content is entirely free.

What do you get to watch on Salesforce+? Think of it as the B2B version of Disney+. It has series after series of content where Salesforce employees and leaders interview client leaders and executives on a host of topics.

For instance, a series called The Inflection Point is hosted by Monica Langley who, after spending 27 years at The Wall Street Journal, is now an Executive Vice President at Salesforce. She interviews people like Google’s Sundar Pichai and Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey. I assume the reason why Salesforce roped in a seasoned journalist is to be able to get such high-profile business executives to agree to a video interview.

Another series is called Connections. This is hosted by Salesforce President and CMO Sarah Franklin who talks to assorted marketing leaders about how they are connecting their businesses with their customers.

One of the older series that Salesforce launched back in March 2020 when the pandemic began is called Leading Through Change. This series deals with how business leaders were handling the pandemic and has 50+ episodes!

Now, most B2B organizations are generally obsessed with video as a content format because every metric about digital content informs them that video is in great demand, considerably more than other kinds of content that are less easier to slot and measure. After all, any written text on the internet is just text content, including websites, so there is no specific way to isolate that people are reading *more* or *less* if people are just on the internet. Ditto with visuals and images – they are simply all over the internet and people see what interests them, in specific contexts.

But video? Video is hosted and measured separately. Even the video uploaded on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or YouTube is measured for everything from views, completion rate, comments, feedback in the form of reaction buttons, and so on. And using those total metrics, a case could be made that video content is in great demand on the internet, generally.

I have worked on quite a few B2B clients in my PR and advertising/digital marketing roles on the agency side and have seen the shift in interest from wanting a dedicated corporate blog in the early 2010s to wanting to produce a *lot* of corporate videos as it became cheaper and easier to produce videos with significantly better and cheaper smartphones in the mid-2010s.

In the earlier part of that stage, most B2B companies wanted videos to populate their YouTube channels. And these were largely the kind of videos that you would relegate as ‘B2B’, meaning *boring* when compared to the kind of videos that people consciously want to watch… meaning: on social media platforms, and movies.

Salesforce+ seems to be trying to find a middle path by producing original videos that subtly plug Salesforce’s products and services along with tons of videos that does the plugging bluntly. It’s an uneasy and curious combination, but something that most B2B organizations have tried and assembled from time to time.

One thing Salesforce+ is definitely not is entertaining. Most of the videos are talking head videos, while some series genuinely try to reduce the sense of boredom by taking the participants to a non-studio’ish, outdoor setup, like Sarah Franklin’s Connections. Yet, what they talk about is not even like a documentary that explores a premise in-depth; they are more like quick-byte interviews that may be interesting to a small audience that is very, very interested in the topic or the personality.

This is ok, though – Salesforce+ doesn’t need to compete with Disney+ to produce entertaining content. But the reality is that Salesforce+ does compete with Disney+ (and Netflix or HBO Max) when it comes to luring people to watch video content.

On-demand video (which is streaming video, unlike TV that is appointment-based video) means people consciously choose to watch what they want. Their wants could be dictated by their interests or peer recommendations, but they are gravitating towards specific video content by choice… and *demand* it.

The content on Salesforce+ seems tailored to what the company thinks corporate executives may want to watch. Very few series try to go broader in terms of making the content widely understood by a larger audience, like ‘Simply Put’ that prides itself as a show about explaining ‘How businesses are solving complex industry-wide problems, explained with no insider jargon’. But it has more than enough jargon to make a non-corporate viewer eye-roll. For instance, “Bring all of your data into a single source of truth”!

You could always argue that corporate viewers are geared to such jargon after having lived with it for years, of course 🙂

The other interesting aspect is discoverability.

On Netflix or Disney+, how do we discover new content to watch? We browse the catalog, we read reviews, we look for peer recommendations, and so on. On Salesforce+? This is a tough call. Much of streaming video works by attracting attention to its content library and draws people in. For something like Salesforce+, the company needs to invest money to market the content.

However, almost all these videos are also available on Salesforce’s YouTube channel too where the content would get YouTube’s algorithmic push too. On a dedicated channel like Salesforce+, that recommendation engine is missing.

However, I also noticed that Salesforce+ uses Vidyard, a Canadian company, as the underlying video streaming service, not YouTube embeds! This is a substantial difference. I had explored Vidyard very deeply back in my Ogilvy days for a very large B2B client and was very impressed with the amount of effort the company has put in making a video streaming service tailored to B2B content.

As you watch the videos on Salesforce+, you’d realize that you cannot move the video marker forward or backward by dragging it – you have to move forward or back using the circular arrow buttons near the play/pause. Vidyard offers a very, very detailed view into how people have *consumed* a video including specific details like which part people paused and viewed again, which parts were forwarded, and so on. This is a lot more nuanced than what YouTube offers. Vidyard also includes a feature to gate the content conditionally – for instance, you could let the first 2 minutes play and then pop a form that seeks the viewer’s name and email ID. When they enter those details, the video continues. The content owner could insert this form at a point where you have mounted the excitement or interest significantly and the viewer would not think twice before giving their contact details.

But this is likely to not be very effective in the Salesforce+ section where all the video content is free and there is no form-fill sought anywhere. However, if you see the 2nd tab in Salesforce+, it is called Dreamforce.

Dreamforce has content from Salesforce’s event of the same name, plus some more. The videos here are considerably more B2B’ish (meaning considerably more boring to most people in the world) and they require you to create a free login to start watching anything. I did not sign up, understandably, but I reckon Vidyard’s full capabilities would be used in this section. This is how B2B organizations generate leads and nurture leads. Most B2B content is gated for this precise reason – offer a snapshot freely (whitepaper’s introduction or summary) and share more personal and contact details if you want the full version. Then, based on what you wanted to read and watch, a salesperson from the organization would contact you and try to convert you into a paying customer.

Between you sharing the details and someone contacting you, a *lot* happens at the B2B sales and marketing organization. Your details are entered into multiple cohorts or categories, you are tagged as ‘warm’, ‘cold’ or ‘hot’ lead depending on your designation, industry profile, decision-making or decision-influencing capability, and so on. Here’s where Vidyard comes in handy in understanding (to whatever extent possible) a viewer’s interests and categorizing them deeply so that the lead nurture process becomes more purposeful.

I find the Salesforce+ streaming effort by the company to be quite ambitious. There is a lot of effort under the hood. But there seems to be far less effort in the scripting and conceptualization part. It seems like Salesforce believes that ‘if you make content available, people will come’ (the modern-day equivalent of George Costanza’s “Because it’s on TV” reply to, “Why am I watching it?”) without taking into account that the fundamental currency for any video, whether on TikTok, or Disney+ or Salesforce+ is the same – your time and attention. From that perspective, I don’t see the effort in attracting the attention of an audience, and merely repackaging standard-issue B2B videos into a section self-identified as ‘streaming’ may not cut it. Such content may as well reside on YouTube where they would at least benefit from the algorithm’s discoverability engine.

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