It’s been a long time coming but at last Facebook is releasing its business messaging and networking service – Workplace.
Making predictions about new technology can be a bit of a dangerous game but we think that Workplace’s implications for business, customers and more make it a serious new addition to the software landscape.
Before we get to our predictions, let’s take a look at what Workplace is.
What is Workplace by Facebook?
Workplace by Facebook is a new desktop and mobile app that has the familiar Facebook News Feed, chat, live video, audio and video calling and Reaction features – but is targeted towards business users.
Unlike strictly professional platforms like LinkedIn, Workplace by Facebook is targeting employees who may not normally make a priority of professional networking, or engaging with enterprise IT.
With 1000 pilot customers already signed on, Workplace for Facebook has a good basis to grow from following its official launch.
Essentially, Facebook are trying to open up business networking by using the familiar Facebook platform to draw in those who aren’t normally in the habit of using platforms like LinkedIn – non-techies, less senior staff and people in non-sales-led positions.
There’s new stuff too – Workplace-only features include analytics dashboards, reporting and integrations with single sign-on, along with the ability to create Multi-Company Groups – shared spaces that allow employees from different firms to collaborate and work with partners outwith their organisation.
Late to the party?
In some ways, Facebook’s Workplace is a latecomer in the area of business messaging and networking. Companies are accustomed to using everything from Google Chat, Slack and Yammer through to in-app communication using CRM systems like Salesforce.
The reason for the delay seems in part due to the internal rethinks required for Facebook to start acting with a SaaS vendor mindset. According to an interview with Techcrunch, Julian Codorniou, director in charge of Workplace stated that;
“We had to build this totally separate from Facebook, and we had to test and get all the possible certifications to be a SaaS vendor,”
More than this, extensive testing has been required to make sure that the familiar features of Facebook are seen as attractive, and not a strange fit or off-putting for the business context.
How much does Workplace by Facebook cost?
In terms of cost, Workplace is different to the established platforms – instead of tiered pricing with gold, silver and bronze levels like most enterprise software applications, Workplace will simply give every user the same features and charge on volume alone.
For each company, Facebook will charge a straightforward $3 per user per month for the first 1,000 users; $2 per user for the next 1,001-10,000 with just $1 for monthly active users beyond that.
That’s pretty inexpensive by industry standards, but that’s not the only aspect that will make companies take notice. Here are our four predictions for Workplace by Facebook:
1. Workplace will be more widely used than similar enterprise platforms
The biggest headaches for most business software implementations are training requirements and the uphill struggle to get staff to actually use the new system. Given the huge numbers of people who use conventional Facebook in their daily life, users will already be familiar with how to use chat and navigate the News Feed and other features.
That means uptake should be more straightforward, with greater potential for successful implementations – and speed up the journey to ROI.
2. Ease of use means bigger customers and more users
With users effectively pre-trained from using Facebook in their personal lives, there is significant scope for Facebook to acquire very large userbases, very quickly. ]
While many organisations will deliberately limit new technology to those who have an explicit need, due to the previously mentioned training headaches, Workplace should be able to reach corners of companies that tools like Slack and Yammer never reach.
That’s why Workplace has already been able to sign up companies like RBS (100.000 employees) and Telenor (36,000 employees).
Those big numbers are important for Facebook’s bottom line, but also for what Workplace as a platform can accomplish as it touches all parts of a business, equipping employees who may not usually be resourced well with IT to do more, do it better and have easier lives.
3. Businesses will be excited about the impact on employee engagement and potential returns
Another interesting aspect of the pricing relates to how big numbers of users can result in big impacts. Adoption won’t be limited to a small portion of the company and so that applications are greater not just for high-level decision making but for simply getting things done day-to-day. What department can’t benefit from legitimately better, mobile-focused communication, using the type of platform that comes most naturally?
In the beta phase it’s been reported the user engagement with the platform has been incredible, with over 100,000 user groups already created. It may well be that Facebook has smashed the previous ceiling for ‘corporate’ IT – and the results don’t seem limited to any one country. The top five countries using Workplace so far are India, the US, Norway, UK and France.
4. Timing is everything: Companies are ready to show a more human face
As Facebook’s release notes –
‘The new global and mobile workplace isn’t about closed-door meetings or keeping people separated by title, department or geography. Organizations are stronger and more productive when everyone comes together.’
This feels like a pretty natural extension of Mark Zuckerberg’s well-documented view of what social networking should be. More than this, it feels like that time is right for business technology to match the ambition of company’s to present a more human face – internally between employees, and externally with customers.
The divide between working and non-working life seems increasingly arbitrary in the present era of bring-your-own-device and flexible working patterns.
Workplace should enable companies to continue on this wave, breaking down internal silos and finding new ways to present themselves to employees, partners and ultimately customers.
Communication, openness and sharing – all very Facebook.
Workplace versus LinkedIn
LinkedIn is currently the largest professional network in the world. However, with its acquisition by Microsoft, expectations for its continued success are high – and more challengers are due.
Workplace isn’t a like-for-like competitor to LinkedIn, but it could soon erode LinkedIn’s dominance in the B2B social networking space – and maybe, executives at LinkedIn should be worried…
To give Workplace by Facebook a try, visit workplace.fb.com. At Blueclaw we’ll be giving it a go and seeing how it can help us to do bigger and better things for our clients. Of course, for guidance on social media strategy, we’re only ever a click away.