Being ‘Social’ at Work with Facebook
The phrase “Facebook at work” used to suggest people spending time catching up on the social network rather than actually doing their job. Many companies were so concerned about the potential distraction that they rushed to produce social media use policies for employees, and in some companies IT managers were instructed to block access to the site.
Fast forward several years and Facebook has built an at-work version of its platform, with some major players (including RBS, Club Med and Heineken) doing their beta testing.
So what’s changed?
While social networking has transformed how people interact in their personal lives, it’s barely made a dent in the way they work, particularly in large companies. With a third of Earth’s entire population predicted to be using social networking sites by 2018, Facebook at Work is looking to change that.
What is Facebook at Work?
Facebook at Work lets companies create their own social networks, providing a work-specific social media zone for co-workers to communicate with each other.
“The fundamental idea behind Facebook at Work is that a more connected workplace is a more productive workplace,” says Julien Codorniou, director of global platform partnerships for Facebook at Work
Facebook at Work has a similar look and feel to the personal site, and allows employees to connect with colleagues in much the same way as they link to friends. While having a familiar feel, Facebook at work is separate from the personal service and you don’t need a personal account to be able to access it.
As expected for any business related software, Facebook has built enterprise-grade security and administration tools into the service. They’re also talking to relevant software vendors so they can integrate, making it easier for employees to use it in their normal daily workflow.
“I think that we have an edge with Facebook at Work because we’ll give people tools that are as good as the ones they use in their personal lives,” said Mr. Codorniou.
Source: iTunes Store
How Did Facebook at Work Come About?
As early as June 2014 there were rumours of Facebook working on a new product, “FB@Work”, which would be aimed squarely at the enterprise market.
In January the following year, the company launched new iOS and Android apps called “Facebook at Work,” along with a version of Facebook at Work which was accessible via its main website. The aim: to let businesses create their own social networks which look and act like Facebook itself.
Facebook has said they will launch the business version of its social networking service in 2016, but won’t say when.
Responding to questions about the somewhat open ended timescales of the project, Julien Codorniou replied: “When we feel that we have tested the product and our assumptions in as many industries and geographies as needed, we will be ready to launch.”
And testing the product, and making necessary revisions, they certainly are – with the iTunes app currently on version 35.0!
Safe to say, Facebook are invested in getting this right before making it available to everyone.
‘Alpha’ Beta Testers:
For many new apps a major challenge can be finding people willing to test the software. Not so if you’re the world’s largest social network. 60,000 companies applied to participate in Facebook at Work’s pilot program.
Another advantage Facebook has is that it’s been using the software internally for years. They’ve even cited it as part of the company’s secret to moving fast and scaling globally, which isn’t a bad case study to have under your belt.
Royal Bank of Scotland are also advocates of the platform. Initially RBS had about 500 of its 100,000 employees in the pilot. This grew 10 fold in early 2016 and they planned to add over 50,000 to the service by mid-year.
Kevin Hanley, director of design at RBS, who works closely with RBS CIO Patrick Eltridge, says the move is about more than just technology: “There’s a real potential to transform the way we work together and ultimately improve the service we provide to our customers,”
“Facebook at Work lets our staff communicate, discuss and solve problems faster and more efficiently in a way that tools, such as email, simply can’t.”
The idea of social and collaboration tools in the work place is not a new one. However, with Microsoft and Salesforce both experiencing below expected levels of user adoption (according to market watcher IDC Corp) it seems Facebook’s biggest competitor might actually be email.
Companies have been using emails for decades now and many are dependent on it. However, Facebook says email promotes a hierarchical organisation rather than an open and collaborative workplace: “Email is an inherently top-down method of communication meant for broadcasting information as opposed to exchanging it,” says Codorniou.
What Facebook at Work Means for Businesses
This looks set to be the next big move for social networks. What Facebook does (successfully) others will look to copy. LinkedIn is interested in similar work-style social media, and apps like Slack and Hipchat are already adding a distinction to the work / life balance by making it easy to communicate with co-workers in a way that doesn’t infringe on personal life.
Looking at the beta testers for Facebook at work, you can see its value in large organisations. But it has potential to also benefit smaller companies whose employees are not all in one location, such as those with staff on the road, home workers or multiple offices. If the findings of the beta testing are anything to go by then any company which sends lots of internal emails could find Facebook at Work a beneficial alternative.
Having a clear distinction between work and personal social media could represent a huge shift in how social networks are used. It may change not only how companies communicate with each other internally, but how they look to market their company externally.
Possible changes to marketing campaigns could include:
- Targeted message content – Facebook tends to favour B2C brands looking to use it for marketing, because people tend to use Facebook at home. So Facebook at Work could be particularly useful for B2B companies that have struggled on Facebook in the past.
- Posting times –it’s possible people may access personal sites less during the day if they’re spending their time on business networks instead. Therefore if your optimal engagement window is currently 9-to-5 this might change.
- Ads – Facebook at Work is currently ad free, but will there ways in the future to get your message into a “work” network?
It’s still early days in the world of work-centric social networks but it’s definitely an area we’re going to be keeping an eye on and we’ll keep you updated.
If you’d like to have a chat about marketing your brand on social media we’d love to help.
Call our friendly team for a chat on 01763 877110 or click this link.