What is Facebook at work?

Anthony Caruana
17 December, 2014
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Facebook-graph-search-feature-macworld-australia1With well over a billion active users, Facebook is leviathan in social media. And, even if we’re to believe Hollywood’s version of its origins, Facebook is far more than a way for socially awkward college students to meet girls. It is a key communication tool that’s used the world over.

The trouble with Facebook for businesses is that it’s uncontrolled. Although there are privacy policies and other rules and conventions it’s still the Wild West with people able to post and share all sorts of information. It’s little wonder that law enforcement loves Facebook as it provides a rich source of information and businesses hate it because it’s an easy way to leak information or air dirty laundry.

However, the word is that Facebook is developing a business friendly version of the service that would compete with LinkedIn and other business-focussed networks. Facebook staff has been using Facebook for Work internally for some time. There are now plans for it to become a commercial product or service.

It’s currently in testing according to anonymous sources with a pilot program running out London.

Facebook for Work will be a separate service to regular Facebook. If you have a personal Facebook account, it won’t be linked in any way to your Work profile. That way, you personal and business universes should never collide – think of it as having a personal mobile phone and a work one where everything is separated.

If the leaked information is correct, Facebook for Work will combine the messaging and information sharing features we’re all accustomed to using with collaboration tools.

From what we’ve been able to glean, there’s nothing Facebook for Work is offering that other services don’t already do from a functionality point of view.

Where Facebook for Work seems to differentiate itself is that it combines the functions of services such as Google Drive and Google Apps or Office 365 and One Drive with the social element. This is likely to appeal to many workplaces, particularly those where personnel are extremely social media savvy.

Unlike the public Facebook service, Facebook for Work can be internally hosted so that is completely isolated. We can imagine a market where companies could procure Facebook for Work either through a managed service provider, as software they install and operate themselves, or from Facebook as a separate service.

If Facebook is able to crack the business collaboration nut then they will have accomplished something no other developer or vendor has managed.

We’ve seen collaboration and unified communications system promise a lot over the years. But when the rubber hits the road, they are either too hard to use, difficult to manage or fail to permeate the corporate culture.

Apple managed to make smartphones into a consumer market by combining great hardware and software to create a powerful user experience. In a sense, the iPhone didn’t do anything that hadn’t been done before. But Apple did it better than anyone conceived was possible at the time.

If Facebook for Work can do the same for business communication and collaboration then they will revolutionise the way businesses operate.

The big question in our minds is: Are businesses ready to change how they work and will they trust Facebook to deliver the tools?

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