Whenever Facebook announces something new, most savvy digital marketers are quick to gather as much information as they can about it. This is a wise move, considering that most or all of a business’s customers and potential customers are probable using the platform.
But every now and then Facebook will introduce a product that causes smaller marketers to stop and ask themselves, ‘how much time should I really spend on this?’ While Facebook owes much of its success to the strategy of making tools that appeal to just about everyone, Facebook at Work will not be so ubiquitous.
For anyone not familiar with this new offering from the social network, here’s the idea in a nutshell: Facebook at Work is a platform that will allow businesses to have their own social network where employees can share documents, make announcements, and chat with one another. So, should the small business owner/marketer care about Facebook at Work? Let’s ask some follow-up questions:
Is this product intended for small businesses?
Difficult to say, but Facebook at Work is currently aimed at businesses with 100 or more employees. While this may fit into the technical definition of a “small business,” most of the people who refer to themselves as “small business owners” have far fewer sets of helping hands. Now, it’s worth noting that there is a difference between something being aimed at a market and being exclusively for a market, so don’t let the numbers deter you necessarily. It’s not clear just yet whether or not availability will be limited to these businesses, or if that’s just who Facebook is targeting right now.
The help topic on Facebook for this product includes a link to a form where employees can request more information if their employer doesn’t offer Facebook at Work. This form does ask the size of the company, but it doesn’t specify how that information will be used.
Can I afford this product right now?
It’s unclear how much – if anything – Facebook at Work will cost. Ingrid Lunden of TechCrunch recently spoke with Facebook engineer Lars Rasmussen about the product, and here’s what she says she came away from that conversation with in terms of pricing:
“The company has yet to work out, for example, how it might price the app, whether it will monetise the service through ads, or how third-party apps will work. For now, Facebook Platform has been disabled on the Work product, meaning no ads or apps.”
If Facebook ends up going with an ad-based model, then it’s entirely possible the service will be free – meaning that the employers will effectively be covering the ‘cost’ of the product by supplying the eyeballs of their employees. If the app does end up costing money, however, business owners will need to seriously consider the return on investment for this product in their work environments.
Should I be concerned about security issues?
Since Facebook at Work has not been broadly demoed just yet, it’s hard to say what kinds of security measures will be put in place. However, the Help Center article does point out that Facebook at Work accounts will be walled off from personal Facebook profiles. That said, the article also states the following:
“When you set up your work account, you’ll be able to connect it to your personal account. This lets you switch between the 2 accounts while using the same username and password for both.”
Granted, I have not had my hands on the product yet, but I always get a little wary when products place too much of the onus for not getting confused between accounts on the user. Having used Facebook Business Manager, a personal profile, and several business pages on the same computer in the past, I can tell you from experience that it is not difficult to confuse the environments and post the wrong thing in the wrong place. (Easier to just use a Pagemodo Agency Account when multiple people manage your Facebook page, eh?)
Will Facebook at Work really benefit my employees?
While every business is different, Facebook at Work does seem like it could provide a lot of value, particularly to businesses that employ 10+ people or that have employees who are not all in the same location. Email is great and all, but having a central location where documents and announcements can be found remotely by multiple people at any time can really increase productivity.
The first feature that I checked on was the availability of Chat within Facebook at Work. It appears that the app does, in fact, offer both one-on-one and group chatting. We use a company-wide chat system here at Pagemodo and Webs (shout out to HipChat!), and while it took a little getting used to at first, I can say that it has definitely improved our ability to get a lot more done in a lot less time. Being able to pose a question to an entire virtual room of people at once taps into the experience and knowledge of people you might not have thought to ask directly.
The final verdict? The value of Facebook at Work will have to be determined on a case-by-case basis for small business owners. They will need to weigh the (as yet hypothetical) cost of the product against what they think their employees will get out of it, bearing in mind the size of the company and the physical proximity of the employees. It’s also worth digging further into the security and user-friendliness of Facebook at Work, especially for companies that deal with a lot of proprietary information or sensitive documents.
What do you think about Facebook at Work? Let us know in the comments!