Will Businesses ‘Like’ Facebook at Work?

Carl Weinschenk
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Facebook has been working on an enterprise version of its platform for a couple of years. It will be introduced on October 10 in London. The immediate question, of course, is whether the platform will succeed. In the bigger picture, it is important to see how social networking is affecting the world of unified communications (UC).

The pilot for the service launched in January 2015, according to Computerworld. The concept behind Facebook at Work is to appropriately tweak its hugely successful consumer social media platform to enable workers to share information, set up events, collaborate on projects, message each other, and set up groups. The idea is that it will be Facebook without the fun.

There are positives and negatives associated with repositioning a consumer product for business, especially one as popular and ubiquitous as Facebook. The company no doubt realized this. Its preparation was massive, according to Business Insider. The story says that 450 companies took part in beta testing and the waiting list to adopt the platform is 60,000 companies long.


Jillian D’Onfro spoke to some of those beta testers. One ironic reaction is that employers have tried very hard to limit Facebook’s use at work. Now, they told her, it may seem odd to push it. Facebook’s tendency to emphasize graphics at the expense of text may be counterproductive in a work environment. In other words, the Facebook approach in general may be at odds with the way companies want their employees to approach their jobs.

A positive reaction by the beta testers to whom D’Onfro spoke is that Facebook at Work is intuitive and immediately understood. This is a big deal. Other platforms aiming at the same niche take much longer to gain traction because they are unfamiliar to users.

With that many beta users, it’s not hard to find opinions. Matt Kapko at CIO took a close look at the reaction of one of these companies. Weber Shandwick, a big public relations firm, has been a Facebook at Work beta tester since last year. It is now used by about 4,000 employees. The company is particularly happy with the video option that was introduced in August. Also new last month, Kapko writes, are group audio calling, a modular inbox for work chat, search filters and other features.

The ethical and legal bar is high in business communications, especially in the financial and medical sectors and in other industries that deal with sensitive information. In addition to advanced security features, enterprise UC platforms offer deeper integration with backend databases and other corporate-friendly features. It will be interesting to see if Facebook at Work and other consumer services trying to make the leap into the workplace have built in these functions.

An analyst quoted in Kapko’s piece suggests that Facebook at Work has a shot at success despite the large number of competitors. That is likely true. What is certain is that it will continue to be interesting to watch.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.

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