Not all that long ago, enterprise social networking was the next big thing. A large number of startups were launched that aimed to provide a Twitter or Facebook for businesses, collaboration platforms began adding social capabilities, there were even whole conferences dedicated to the trend. But while everyone thought social capabilities in the enterprise was a good idea (myself included), no one was ever able to make it catch on.
Of course, most of these previous efforts came at the problem from the enterprise side, trying to make business tools more social. And that’s why the announcement for Facebook at Work is so intriguing. After all, who better to make a social network for business than “the social network”.
Recently, Facebook announced that they are testing out the social network for business tool both internally and with a small group of test businesses, with the goal of having Facebook at Work generally available later this year.
From the announcement, it looks to be exactly what you would expect. Facebook, but for business purposes. It will look and operate in basically the same way as regular Facebook, except for a different color scheme. Facebook at Work accounts will be separate from personal accounts, though users will have the option to link them.
No one knows exactly how this will turn out but, looking at the concept of Facebook at Work, several things jump out, both positive and negative.
From the positive side, one of the challenges that other enterprise social networking tools have had is the struggle to work like traditional social networking tools, as users expect this type of functionality from their social tools. Facebook at Work is Facebook, so users will have no problem getting up and running. You can also expect good mobile capabilities for Facebook at Work, as well as an eager ecosystem of third-party developers looking to add functionality to the platform.
But there are some potential gotchas as well. While Facebook has said that they won’t access or mine company data from Facebook at Work accounts, the company does have a history of changing its mind on these types of things. Will businesses be comfortable putting their data in the hands of the social giant? Also, from a user standpoint, the chances of confusion and posting personal stuff in the work social network seems like it could be a little high, no matter the color scheme differences.
Also, many businesses say that the reason their previous enterprise social efforts failed was that they didn’t exist in the user’s main work interface and users didn’t like having to leave their main interface in order to access social connectivity. But Facebook at Work will still be a separate place where users go to be social.
However this turns out, it does promise to re-energize the interest in enterprise social collaboration. Just remember, project update goes in Facebook at Work, drunk bar crawl photos go in your personal Facebook. Try not to get those confused.
To learn about successful social business collaboration, read the report Enterprise Social Collaboration: The Collaborators’ Advantage