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Facebook's New 'At Work' Platform: Why It Can't Replace Your Online Community

Written by Dave Sabol | on January 22, 2015 at 2:25 PM

Facebook recently announced a new enterprise-focused version of its social network, Facebook at Work. The features will include document collaboration, employee news feeds and profiles and the ability to build a professional network of contacts. Facebook is still a free platform (and right now, Facebook at Work is as well. They're also touting the fact that it will be ad-free), so those who use it personally might gravitate to it for that sole reason. Most businesses will probably still shy away from functionality issues, a lack of control and no option of owning your own data.

Platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn could be considered "competitors" in the world of online communities, but here at Higher Logic we like to encourage clients to use social media in conjunction with their platform, to "be omnipresent". Facebook at Work might initially hinder people and organizations from jumping on the enterprise social platform train immediately, but that won't last.

Consider the following (we'll keep it conversational, not technical):

  • Despite being much more commonplace, I suspect that many employers will be very wary of allowing employees on public social media sites, especially during work hours. This isn't to say that they aren't already doing it, but it's still not a sanctioned activity everywhere
  • Mid-to-large organizations won't be comfortable allowing sensitive documents, and conversations being held outside of the confines of their 'firewalls'. It's a trust and ownership issue. LinkedIn may have the edge, trust-wise, but control is a big deal. Until the security issue is more clearly defined, uptake likely will be very slow
  • Similarly, many people want to keep a personal firewall between work and personal affairs. Linking the two - however loosely - will be a huge cognitive/emotional barrier to overcome
  • A recent article basically stated that the platform is "an awkward family dinner party we really can't leave," according to many in their late-teens through those in their early 30s. In a nutshell: "It's dead to them". Failure to capture the interest of Millennials and Generation Z will definitely tank the long term viability of the offering, unless FB makes some serious inroads with those two groups

Here's a top five list for why Facebook at Work will never live up to its potential as a legitimate community platform:

  1. Renting versus owning. Even if the FB at Work product goes to a "pay-to-play" model, the scope of control that you'll be able to exert is still highly in question. Ultimately, FB benefits the most because they'll be able to analyze all of the data (regardless of how abstracted it is).
  2. You're the product. The data input is in Facebook's hands - you're missing out on understanding, tailoring and strategizing around it.
  3. Give yourself ownership. Bring the data under your house. This monetizes your website while bringing more understanding to your membership.
  4. Lack of resources. Most companies don't have significant community management resources and many struggle to maintain their external communities - how does that translate to internal communities?
  5. Where's the integration? Yet another sticking point, especially for corporations and associations alike, is the lack of integration with outside platforms. No CRM/AMS integration is a big red flag.

I'm not saying that Facebook cannot be successful with it's "At Work" offering. After all, they've been using it, or something that resembled it, for close to 10 years. What I will say is I think it's a stretch to believe it will be more than a momentary "blip on the radar". Google tried to accomplish something similar when it acquired Orkut, launched Wave and tried yet again to get it right through Google Plus Groups. Community is a simple concept on paper, but it gets pretty complex when it comes down to execution.

Topics: Community Platforms & Updates, Social Media, Collaboration Tools, Online Community

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