Facebook has announced it is building a professional network for workers to create a separate profile for all work activities, The Financial Times has reported. The new platform will allow professionals to connect and collaborate on work related documents.
Facebook at Work will look similar to its existing social network, but users will be able to keep their personal profiles separate, the paper says.
They also would be able to chat with colleagues, build professional networks and share documents, people said to be working on it told the Financial Times.
With a reported 1.35 million active monthly users this move will compete directly with Google, Microsoft and LinkedIn.
“Facebook at Work is likely to bring some benefits to companies – but not the ones they think,” said Prof Andre Spicer, of Cass Business School.
“It is unlikely to make employees more productive, but it will help them to be more connected and aware.”
This is a major step for Facebook which started trialing VoIP calls last year in Canada. With a chat facility that has over 500 million users in the space of a few short months the likes of Google and Microsoft will have grounds for concern. Facebook has demonstrated that users flock to its services time and time again and if they can get their proposition right we could see a major rival of Office 365,Lync, and Google docs within the next 18 months. For now, much of the comparison has been drawn against professional network LinkedIn which has grown to over 300 million users since its inception. The fate of LinkedIn is unknown and must be in question as they go up against the biggest network in the world. Although LinkedIn allows for communications between users Facebook has a service which far outstrips it and will most likely continue to develop the service well beyond LinkedIn’s reach.
Tristan Rogers, CEO of Concrete, commented “The “enterprise” is becoming the new battleground for network software vendors and investors. For years, the consumer network has been laced together via Facebook, Google, Twitter, Instagram and SnapChat, tapping into the huge audience and latent need to connect likeminded individuals around a common theme.
As with most things, we are witnessing a swing in the market, as investors and entrepreneurs now think the enterprise is where the opportunity and money is. And they are right, because the enterprise today is still a graveyard of old desktop and server side software that is increasingly at odds with a generation Y audience that has been using the cloud platforms the social software entrepreneurs and investors built 5-10 years ago.
One cannot question Facebook’s financial means to build a workplace version of its ubiquitous social network, nor the fact that despite many detractors, it has become a real business with real revenue. So far so good. But what about its ethos; its business DNA? As a social network, Facebook is built on the principle that people “want” to share information with each other. It is a voluntary network with no predetermined goals or outcomes. One can do what they want on Facebook with whomever they wish. That is not very “enterprise”. An enterprise is built on pre-defined rules about outcomes, quantities, margins and repeatability. Workers are given roles and responsibilities, and the ability to perform these to the best of their ability can drive their personal success.
‘Facebook for Work’ is almost inevitable, with the likes of Slack, Asana and Drop/Box all banging on about enterprise value, and Google and Microsoft also throwing their weight around, too. But do you remember Yammer – The Enterprise Social Network? Microsoft bought it for $1.2bn with revenues of around $20m, generating a circa 60x multiple. Why? Because it had 100m users. And some schmuck at Microsoft thought that $10 CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost) was cheap, when actually it was CACK. And this is because a user account is not worth anything unless the user that it belongs to is using it and is deriving value from it.
This is the billion dollar issue with enterprise software: it has to drive value. And this is particularly true of SaaS vendors whose service mantra is judged by the ongoing value it generates. No value? – switch it off / stop using it. That’s what happened to Yammer. And that is what could happen to ‘Facebook for Work’ unless it can work out what the value proposition is for the enterprise.”