It’s true; Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) really is developing a new site for employees to collaborate and communicate at work. The appropriately named Facebook at Work (how original) is reportedly being tested at several companies.
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When I first heard about it I thought Facebook was going after LinkedIn, but it’s not; it’s a collaboration tool that will compete with Microsoft’s Yammer, IBM Connections, Salesforce.com Chatter, Jive Software, and Slack (love that name), which recently raised a $120 million round at a $1.12 billion valuation.
If Facebook pulls this off it would be the mother of all Trojan horse maneuvers. And an ironic one, at that.
After all, corporate executives would love nothing more than to block employees from using Facebook at work. According to one study, most of the time employees spend online they’re not working at all, they’re cyberloafing – screwing around on Facebook, Twitter and Amazon, among others.
But if Facebook manages to get into the enterprise through legitimate means, that would open up a new world of possibilities. Of course, the social network would have to agree to keep its consumer and professional sites separate for security and privacy reasons. Otherwise, IT managers would never go for it.
Still, it’s not as if Facebook has never pulled the rug out from under users and changed its policies on the fly before. I wouldn’t put it past Zuckerberg and company.
You’ve got to admit, it’s an enticing growth opportunity that Facebook simply can’t overlook. If it could penetrate the enterprise and then put all that information it has on 1.3 billion plus people into the hands of corporate recruiters and marketers, that would be a powerful value proposition, to say the least.
It could even threaten Google’s dominant position in online advertising, not to mention LinkedIn’s position as the world’s business network and blog platform.
The opportunity is definitely out there. Social collaboration never really took off in the enterprise the way so many thought it would. I used to hear about it all the time. Lately, not so much. The market is wildly fragmented, much like social networks used to be before Facebook came along and swallowed up everybody’s time and mindshare.
Every enterprise software company on Earth plus a host of startups are going head-to-head in the space. Besides the aforementioned offerings from Microsoft, IBM, Salesforce.com and Slack, SAP has Jam, Cisco recently partnered with Jive, and Oracle has Oracle Cloud (how original).
All Facebook has to do is provide a simple tool with an intuitive user interface in a secure, all-in-one cloud-based solution that integrates with existing software and overcome all the obvious concerns from corporate and IT executives who should know better. If it somehow manages to do all that and gain traction, the social giant would be a formidable competitor in the business collaboration space.
Now that I say it out loud, that does seem more than a little far-fetched. But then, stranger things have happened. Apple partnered with IBM to go after the enterprise. Who saw that coming? Not me, that’s for sure.
You’ve really got to look at this from Facebook’s perspective. There may be 7.2 billion people in the world but only about 2.1 billion adults with Internet access. That means Facebook, with 1.3 billion monthly active users, has already captured more than 60% of its total available market. It’s quickly running out of faces to book.
Corporate America (small businesses, too) clearly represents an enormous opportunity for user growth and leverage with advertisers. Of course the service will initially be free and ad free to gain traction, but Facebook is big enough to wait as long as it takes to gain critical mass. Then the floodgates will open and subscription fees, license fees and advertising revenue will flow. Hallelujah.
Yes, it is ironic that the single activity we waste the most personal time on might actually be brought into the workplace on purpose. God help us.