When you think Facebook, you typically think about socialization during lunch breaks and after work.
But if the social media giant has its way, you could be spending a lot more time on the blue and white screen during work hours. Facebook is gearing up to challenge Microsoft Corp. and Google Inc. directly in the workplace-collaboration market.
Introducing Facebook at Work…“Facebook at Work” is expected to launch in early January, according to insiders familiar with the matter. This product from the social network will provide a platform for employees to communicate together on projects, instead of just sharing funny memes. While the details are still being finalized, it’s expected to roll out as a free of charge product available only to workers at companies that sign up for the service. It will be ad-free.
Facebook’s expansion to the work collaboration market is a sign of the shift being experienced in workplaces across the country. Communication between co-workers is including much more real-time chat and document sharing than conference room collaboration. Facebook isn’t the only one who has noticed the change. Microsoft purchased Yammer, a social enterprise company, in 2012 and has incorporated it into the Office productivity suite. International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) has developed a social-networking service called “Connections” and Slack, a newcomer enterprise-collaboration tool to the market, was recently valued at around $1 billion.
Facebook needs to win over execs. In this relatively crowded market, Facebook may have problems winning over its key advocates – corporate technology officers. These executives will need to give the go ahead on any new technology used in the workforce, and Facebook has had its problems with privacy concerns. Since Facebook at Work will include document uploading, secure sharing is going to be an issue as well. The new product must win over tech officers as well as play well with other software being used in the workplace.
According to Vanessa Thompson, a market researcher at IDC who specializes in enterprise social networks, having a standalone service may hinder Facebook’s attempts to court companies.
“We’re seeing a pretty significant shift in the past 18 months away from stand-alone social networks to scenarios where social capabilities are embedded in product suites,” said Thompson in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
Privacy concerns abound. In addition, privacy concerns could prevent companies from even trying the new service. A recent survey from Software Advice revealed that more than half of respondents saw Facebook’s privacy policies as “completely unacceptable.” Many corporate technology officers agree. Trent Gavazzi, chief technology officer of health-information services firm Availity LLC, stated that Microsoft’s Yammer is a safer bet for his company.
In his Wall Street Journal interview, he noted that he shut down his personal Facebook account because he was concerned with privacy, and wouldn’t use anything from the social network at his company.
Even still, Facebook is confident that its popularity as a social network may play into its adoption in the corporate world. With 1.3 billion users, Facebook is one of the most commonly used website services. Facebook at Work will have a similar layout to the current social network, which could make adoption of the service smoother.
Potential for good opportunities If the privacy concerns are dealt with and employees are able to easily make the transition to the service, it could open up new opportunities for Facebook. For example, workers could eventually make their professional profiles in the service “public” which could position Facebook at Work as a rival to LinkedIn. Many job recruiters use Facebook, in addition to LinkedIn, to find candidates. Having access to more well-rounded Facebook professional profiles would be beneficial for recruiters and candidates as well.