Leveraging CMS in Your Salesforce Community Experience

Phil Weinmeister

It’s two years into the lifecycle of Salesforce CMS and you haven’t touched it yet. Heck, you might not even have a good grasp of what it is. Not to worry, though. It’s still a relatively young offering and, even better, it’s fairly straightforward to set up and use. Let’s dive right in.

What Exactly Is Salesforce CMS?

Salesforce CMS is, as you might expect, Salesforce’s foray into the Content Management space. At the most basic level, Salesforce CMS allows individuals to do the following:

  • Use existing content types
  • Define new content types
  • Author and manage content
  • Organize and channel content
  • Distribute content
  • Present content

When explaining CMS to someone in person, I usually say that a major key is the ability to centrally manage the content. This is different from a “Content Library,” which has been around on the platform for years. CMS Workspaces are created to isolate certain content that can be used through designated channels. In other words, you can map a Workspace to specific destinations to ensure that available content is authorized and intentional for the specified channel.

Salesforce CMS Image 1

A look at a presentation of Product records via the “CMS Collection” component in Experience Cloud (formerly Community Cloud)

How do those capabilities impact the platform, specifically? Are they truly new?

It’s a good question. Terms can be thrown around a bit generically today and it’s not always easy to see through the hype or fluff.

In terms of each end user experience that is enabled through Salesforce CMS, one could probably make a reasonable argument that they could be enabled through custom development and the use of other platform tools. However, it’s the how that is so important here; while records and a custom front end could possibly provide the same end result, the work to get there and the operational implications are great.

So, ultimately, CMS will significantly accelerate your ability to create, manage, distribute, and present content to various destinations in a simple, secure way.

What are content types in Salesforce CMS?

A content type most closely relates to an object in Salesforce. However, it is not a custom object, which is critical to understand. A content type is defined by the fields or elements that it contains. Some fields have a specific purpose in the world of web content (e.g., slug for customized URLs). Additionally, one content type can be embedded within another. For example, content of type “Image” can be embedded in a piece of content of type “News.”

What’s extremely valuable, though, is that you can create additional custom content types; you’re not limited to the three that are currently available OOTB (News, Image, Document). Salesforce has even provided an Appexchange app for you to expedite this process; take a look at CMS Content Type Creator today.

Does Salesforce CMS provide any authoring or management controls?

Salesforce CMS does support the concept of roles to granularly control who can edit specific pieces of content. Again, this can, of course, be applied to objects and fields, but that doesn’t serve as an exact parallel. Think about trying to set controls around authoring and managing images that are files or attachments just for one community…it is not straightforward.

What are these destinations, or “channels,” and how do these work with CMS Workspaces?

The concept here is to provide a simple, secure way to manage content and restrict its presentation to only explicitly specified destinations. This is actually pretty huge. To be able to declaratively configure a limited set of channels through which content can be distributed and from which that content can be viewed is a major win.

The stated pre-wired channels for CMS are:

  • Community Cloud
  • Lightning Experience
  • Commerce Cloud
  • Marketing Cloud
  • Heroku

However, the truly exciting news here is that you can share content externally with potentially any third-party system using Delivery APIs.

CMS Workspaces require mapping to one or more specific channels. The idea here is to designate where the content can be used and prevent its use in unauthorized channels. Also, it’s critically important to understand that this enables the ability to easily reuse content that is centrally managed in one Workspace.

Salesforce CMS Image 2

CMS Workspaces allow for specific content to be distributed only to specified “channels,” such as Commerce Cloud and Heroku.

Is Salesforce CMS part of Community Cloud?

There’s a bit of a Salesforce-esque history here, in which a product bends and morphs before it lands in its final form.

The initial version of the offering was first introduced as “CMS for Community Cloud” in late 2018 (Winter ‘19 release) as a beta release and was officially part of Community Cloud. It became generally available in late 2019 (Winter ‘20) and was moved out of Community Cloud at that time, becoming “Salesforce CMS” and being marketed under the “Digital Experience Platform” umbrella.

So, technically, no, it’s not “inside” Community Cloud, although it’s tightly coupled with it. Oh, and remember, it’s no longer Community Cloud; we call it Experience Cloud now.

What is meant by “tightly coupled with Experience Cloud”?

Salesforce Content records do not have an assumed front end. In other words, it can be used as a headless content system in which the content is incorporated into a purely custom front end. However, it’s technically a hybrid, since Community Cloud provides front end components out-of-the-box for the presentation layer.

In Experience Builder (formerly Community Builder), you can leverage CMS Collection or CMS Single components to display content, as desired. These components are extremely useful and enable an immense level of configuration for the overall experience.

Is there a cost? If so, how much is Salesforce CMS?

Salesforce CMS is a freemium product. It’s free to use up to a certain threshold of content records and types (see chart below, which is subject to change). Once you hit 500 records or 20 types, you’ll need to pay for Salesforce CMS, which is $10,000 per month per org.

Salesforce CMS Image 3

A breakdown of the Salesforce CMS offerings (Free vs. Paid)

Is Salesforce CMS a worthwhile investment?

First, the question is a bit of a moot point, since there is a free option available. If you have a digital experience (a community) on the Salesforce platform, I absolutely recommend applying CMS, as needed. As for paying the $10,000 per month, I don’t see this as a huge hurdle. Salesforce, as a license-based CRM platform, is not cheap by itself. $10,000 per month is probably worth it if you heavily use CMS, and it’s probably lower than what you’re paying for licenses.

Where can I learn more about Salesforce CMS?

I recently published a Pluralsight course that covers CMS and much more on the topic of Community Cloud. Take a look

If you’re looking to build a transformative digital experience that incorporates rich, flexible content, reach out to 7Summits. We have incorporated Salesforce CMS into the experiences of multiple customers and we’d love to help you out as well.

Phil Weinmeister, blog contributor

Phil Weinmeister is the VP of Product Management at 7Summits. He is a Salesforce MVP with 20 certifications and has authored three books that guide readers through leveraging Salesforce in their digital solutions.

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