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Facebook’s [Still Unofficial] Facebook at Work Could Shake Things Up

Posted on the 09 December 2014 by Shellykramer @ShellyKramer

facebook at work“Facebook at work“ usually means a sneaky look at your News Feed when the boss isn’t around. But it seems we’ll soon see a new offering that could make the social network legit: Facebook at Work could not only make Facebook an essential part of your workday, it could also shake up the professional networking market

TechCrunch revealed over the summer that, according to an insider, the company was working on a version of their platform designed solely for use at work. The unnamed source reportedly said: “We are making work more fun and efficient by building an at-work version of Facebook. We will touch code throughout the stack and on all platforms (web, iOS, Android, etc.).”

Flash forward a few months. An anonymous source just gave an update to the Wall Street Journal: the business-focused network, “which will allow employees to communicate and collaborate on projects,” is set for launch in early January.

Unsurprisingly, Facebook staff use Facebook Groups and Messages for much of their internal communication. An ex-employee told TechCrunch, “It would be a pretty natural thing to try to expose this way of using Facebook to get things done at the office to the rest of the world. It’s a really fast and efficient way to get things done.”

Facebook as a communication vehicle probably makes sense; after all, like it or not, most managers and employers would admit that the majority of their staff is probably logged in already, either on their desktops or on their devices.

What remains unclear is how Facebook at Work might help teams to actually get things done — and what’s in it for Facebook. Facebook wouldn’t spend time and resources to develop a new service without a clear method to monetize it in some way — if not at first, then down the road.

The question is: how will that take shape?

B2B advertising is one clear option; I think a premium business service for the workplace is another possibility. However, Facebook may prefer to offer Facebook at Work as a free platform to increase their revenue streams by attracting a wider audience — something rumored for the supposed January launch as they work to build a user base. Now that? Totally makes sense. Thus far, the B2B space has largely not seen much value in investing in Facebook, but this might change that.

And for Facebook, of course building a sizeable user base would be key if they have LinkedIn in their sights — something that isn’t out of reach for the world’s largest social network. Facebook’s existing database already holds a mass of information about our employment history and education, and many people already connect with business colleagues through the network. It wouldn’t be such a stretch to shape this new platform as a professional networking service.

Whichever way they go, Facebook will have challenges ahead.

It may have a commercial edge as a platform for brands to engage with consumers, but at its heart Facebook is seen as a community for friends and family. Its brand is so closely associated with personal relationships that there may be reluctance from users to dilute that. In fact, I’d say that in many instances, there already is reluctance on the part of many users to see anything in their News Feeds that is business related.

Privacy is no small hurdle. Facebook has had its share of flare-ups around personal privacy and margins for error are small — even non-existent — when it comes to business and tolerance of the C-suite in general for that.

Also worth consideration is how Facebook would pair personal and professional profiles: there are plenty of examples of employers checking out the profiles of potential and current employees and taking action if they don’t like what they see. A business-focused platform would need to keep personal and work information well separated and eliminate the potential for crossover. Employees would also need to be disciplined in keeping boundaries to avoid confusion or embarrassment. I see big problems with that one, as employees that we encounter in social media training sessions often aren’t at all interested in the company having any connection or access to what they are doing on Facebook. And I certainly don’t blame them.

It’ll be interesting to see whether January does see the launch of Facebook at Work, what form it might take, and how it might impact the professional networking market.

Do you already use Facebook as an informal communications tool in your business and would you welcome the introduction of a tool like Facebook at Work? I’m interested to hear your views.

Other resources on this topic:

Why Banning Facebook In Your Workplace Is a Stupid Move
Four in Five Employees has Facebook Installed on Work Phone
Facebook Updates Business Pages Adds Competitive Intel

photo credit: eltimbalino via photopin cc

Facebook’s [Still Unofficial] Facebook at Work Could Shake Things Up is a post from: V3 Kansas City Integrated Marketing and Social Media Agency

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