Business Technology

“Facebook at Work” service expected to support businesses and employees

5 min read

17 November 2014

Former deputy editor

Social network Facebook is reportedly developing a new enterprise platform called “Facebook at Work”, which will allow users to separate their personal and professional lives, according to the Financial Times.

Over the past couple of years, Facebook has frequently launched new operations and features, and acquired promising startups – Oculus, WhatsApp, Internet.org, Instagram – to run them as independent divisions for the bigger ambition of connecting people globally, specifically friends and family, according to the firm’s mission statement.

As Facebook CEO and founder, Mark Zuckerberg, says: “Everything Facebook has done has been about giving all people around the world the power to connect.”

Presumably that’s the ambition with the social network’s latest “Facebook at Work” entrepreneurial project, which the FT claims is “designed to allow users to chat with colleagues, connect with professional contacts and collaborate over documents, competing with Google Drive and Microsoft Office.”

The obvious service it would potentially compete with here is LinkedIn. The 2003-launched business platform “connects the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful and transforms the ways companies hire, market and sell,” according to its press office.

In Q3, Facebook announced 1.35bn users and revenue of $3.20bn and comparatively LinkedIn revealed its business-based service hit revenue of $568m and 332m users, which may have helped the former realise the opportunity for enterprise-led networking.

It should be noted that Facebook already has a dedicated support section for businesses and it features case studies from Renault, Sky, McDonald’s, Three and more.

Through the channel, companies can find news and tools that can be used to target customers based on location, age and more, while a directory of Facebook’s 200 plus “Preferred Marketing Developers” can be explored to find potential business partners that can help get campaigns up and running. Seemingly “Facebook at Work” would be an evolution of this by incorporating more support for teams and colleagues.

Real Business spoke to Jess MacIntyre, marketing manager at London-based advertising network Qriously for her thoughts. “Personally I prefer the separation of social media channels. LinkedIn and Twitter I use more for business, and Facebook and Instagram are kept private for my personal life.

“I also now mostly access social media via my mobile using apps. So would not be as likely to use my work desktop for Facebook – it would be more for reading through content. 

“I think it would make me nervous to have two different Facebook accounts. I wouldn’t necessarily want work colleagues or associates to add me as ‘personal’ friend which they may be encouraged to do. Does this mean that there are now more ‘blurred lines’ between your professional and personal existence?

“The way the ‘Facebook Messenger’ app is forcing users to install it to read private messages makes me more inclined to keep away from using Facebook at all. I’m becoming more aware of how Facebook are using my data and wouldn’t want that added aspect of them knowing about my work life.”

Adding to opinion on the news, Sarah Weller, managing director at enterprise app agency Mubaloo London, told us: “It is understandable that Facebook would move into this direction, but the question is whether people’s perception of the brand enables them to think of Facebook in this different context? Or if the need is even there?

“The immediate reaction from employees in the office falls into three categories: ‘Why when we have LinkedIn, Google Drive and Slack.’ ‘I wouldn’t trust Facebook with my work data.’ ‘I’d rather keep them separate.’

“The rumours indicate Facebook at Work could go beyond just connections, to offer Google Drive-like functionality or Slack-like internal communication. This is a really positive step because as we all know, collaborative working is becoming more and more essential and therefore this is a positive. The problem is that many companies and employees love Slack and Google Drive for internal communication and collaboration.

“This may be a great tool that Facebook employees use internally, but the question remains as to whether people outside of Facebook would find it useful. By launching this, Facebook would be trying to enter markets which has established players. If it can deliver a truly brilliant user experience and has enough of a compelling use case, maybe it can do that. At the moment, it’s just hard to see what gap it would fill in the market.”

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