It was reported this week that Facebook is working on a new project called Facebook at Work. The new business network will be linked to people’s personal profiles, but will allow them to create a separate profile for business use. The separate profile will have its own newsfeed and groups, plus rumoured functionality is the ability to network, chat and collaborate on work related documents.
Reports of a Facebook for work use have been around for a while, with TechCrunch reporting in June this year that a team in London were working on a way to make Facebook more accepted in workplaces, where it is often blocked for fear of time-wasting.
How do businesses use Facebook now?
Facebook already has a number of tools for businesses, although all are currently aimed at managing advertising and pages on the platform. Recent developments such as the launch of Business Manager could be a hint towards the future direction of the network. Business Manager allows users to separate their personal and work accounts, which is very similar to the rumoured features of Facebook at Work.
The new platform also has similarities to the way Facebook is used internally within Facebook. According to a TechCrunch source, every team has its own group, and when they join and leave the company or change roles, they are added or removed from the relevant groups: “Most of their communication and planning is done through Messages and Groups. It would be a pretty natural thing to try to expose this way of using Facebook to get things done at the office to the rest of the world. It’s a really fast and efficient way to get things done.”
However, although Facebook are confident about discussing work matters on the platform, many other businesses are likely to have privacy concerns about how their data will be used by the company.
Who are Facebook at Work’s competitors?
Although we don’t yet know exactly what features Facebook at Work will have, there are a growing number of other tools geared towards facilitating business communication and collaboration.
In addition to cloud-based document storage and collaboration from the likes of Google Drive and Microsoft 365, there are a large number of smaller tools – such as Asana and Trello – designed for teams to work together virtually.
Professional social network Linkedin is another potential competitor, although it doesn’t include any of the collaboration tools rumoured to be featuring in Facebook at Work. A number of other companies have tried to create a work social network without stand out success. The hype around Yammer, purchased by Microsoft in 2012, has slowly died down to virtually nothing, and new contenders like Slack are yet to go mainstream.
The key benefit Facebook has over all these other platforms and tools is its user base – with over a billion users it’s far ahead of all of its rivals in this regard. Despite the speculation, Facebook has yet to issue a formal statement about its plans for business users, so it remains to be seen if we’ll all soon be using Facebook – legitimately – at work.