POV: Facebook at Work
The Financial Times ‘broke’ a story last week that Facebook is working on a new service called “Facebook at Work” – a potential LinkedIn killer that would allow you to create a work orientated social profile on the platform.
A work-related version of Facebook has been rumoured for some time; TechCrunch first wrote about the potential Facebook at Work in July. However, the Financial Times article certainly gives the rumour more weight and credibility, although Facebook has yet to publically comment.
With 1.35 Billion global active users, Facebook certainly has customer base already in place, particularly compared to LinkedIn’s 332 million users. Consequently, it would be easy for Facebook to get a large number of people to set-up a work related social graph, arguably a customer need that has been growing as peoples’ networks have started to blur the lines between friends, families, and work colleagues.
However, the new service is more than just a place to post updates; Facebook at Work is said to feature ways to not only communicate with colleagues and connect with other professionals but also to collaborate on documents. Such a fully fledged ‘at work’ version of the social platform could also replace workplace efficiency tools such as Microsoft’s Yammer and Salesforce Chatter, and possibly even Google Docs.
However, this is a competitive and cluttered space. These workplace tools are an accepted part of the modern company’s workflow, whereas Facebook is sometimes banned in offices. So in order for an ‘at work’ Facebook to succeed it needs to change its perception from a place where you spend time, to a place where you save time.
For brands such a new service may provide several opportunities. First, and the most obvious is a B2B advertising opportunity with potentially significant reach, perhaps more than LinkedIn. Second, some users may add or even transition brand fan relationships from their personal networks to their professional social graph. In this later scenario some brand posts may have a higher probability of organic newsfeed reach given a potentially smaller audience, at least during the early phases. Third, some brands may explore added-value utilities and work-related functionality as part of this new ecosystem.
The initial reaction to the Financial Times report may provide Facebook with a glimpse into how an ‘at work’ version of its service would go down. It certainly has the ability and scale to not just change the world of recruitment advertising and job-hunting, but the wider world of how companies collaborate and communicate.
Many questions still remain. Will it be ad free or ad supported? Would people’s personal and professional profiles be linked or kept separate? While Facebook form a closer partnership or open-source approach with Microsoft or a Salesforce to add functionality and credibility to the new service? Is this a play to create a more holistic view of an individual by getting them to offer up data (by filling in their ‘at work’ profile) in order to create an even more robust ID including where you work, how much you earn, what circles you move in and what companies you are thinking about joining?
Time will tell.