'It has potential to bring everything into one place' - SMG, We Are Social, Cake and Grey Possible on Facebook at Work

By Ishbel Macleod | PR and social media consultant

Starcom MediaVest Group

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Facebook article

November 17, 2014 | 8 min read

Facebook is looking to create a LinkedIn-style professional section, dubbed ‘Facebook at Work’, with the aim of engaging those who may not be allowed to use the platform at work.

It is believed that the service, to be launched free and funded by ads, will give users the chance to set up a profile and chat in groups, the platform would also allow colleagues to collaborate on documents as with Google Drive and Microsoft applications – all while keeping their current Facebook page private.

The Drum caught up with social and media agencies to find out there views on what the new product would mean – both for users and advertisers.

Chris Camacho, managing partner for precision marketing at Starcom MediaVest

Facebook’s announcement of the ‘Facebook at Work’ launch doesn’t come as a huge surprise, as there were rumours surfacing about such a platform earlier in the year.

The fact that they will potentially be launching a full-use platform to rival not only LinkedIn, but also company IM clients and Google Drive, is where they will likely face barriers from businesses.

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Facebook has come under fire in the past with security concerns and they will need to do a lot of work to convince businesses that their highly sensitive data is 100 per cent secure and that no data will be shared between businesses or between personal and professional profiles.

Given the exponential growth in the use of LinkedIn over the past few years, with businesses and individuals alike embracing the ability to access a professional social network and regularly posting updates across all of their social media profiles, Facebook At Work as a concept has potential as a means to bring everything into one place – but are they trying to be jack of all trades, master of none?

In terms of monetisation, if they expand the existing ads platform to allow an option to include ads on Facebook At Work, the expanded reach is great from an advertiser perspective, however advertisers need to be mindful not to bombard business with irrelevant ads.

Robin Grant, global managing director, We Are Social

Facebook is constantly looking for new ways to monetise the platform, and a leap into the professional space will open up another potential revenue source - if it can outperform the established competition.

At the moment, it’s not clear exactly who these competitors will be. Reports so far have been been vague as to whether the focus will be an enterprise social network, a professional network or simply an information sharing platform. At the moment reports indicate the former, in which case Facebook at Work will find the space pretty crowded with offerings like Chatter, Jive and Yammer.

However, Facebook does have the advantage of being the social media market leader, so if it can tap into its huge, already engaged audience and offer something different, or better than its competitors it could succeed in the space. It will also need to earn the trust of both users and the businesses they work for. People are already wary of how Facebook uses their personal data, this will be amplified when it comes to business information.

By keeping Facebook at Work separate to personal profiles, that have historically been blocked by a number of employers, it could give Facebook an active audience to market to during working hours as well as out of them. Of course, it will also give the platform access to more detailed information about people’s careers - yet more data for it to use to target ads effectively, perhaps allowing it to reach out to a whole new group of advertisers.

Renee Fehsenfeld, social media director, Cake

'Facebook at Work' makes sense, but it also doesn't. From Facebook's point of view, it's attractive. It's an obvious, un-tapped market, there is potential incremental advertising revenue and the data – oh, the data. It also makes sense in terms of their overall mission of making the whole world more connected.

However, Facebook is treading on tricky ground. They've already got themselves in hot water with privacy and data and I can't imagine any business would be entirely comfortable with sharing confidential documents, even in a secure area, especially in light of Facebook's recent covert experiment with over 700,000 bits of user data. So the question is; do we really want to give Facebook even more data and even more power?

The opportunity for advertising revenue is attractive, yes, but LinkedIn's advertising revenue last year (and forecast this year) is nowhere near the scale of Facebook's advertising revenue which is in the billions.

More importantly, will people use it? Most people I imagine will want to keep their work lives separate from their personal lives. Who wants their boss or work colleagues seeing their profile pictures? If they do adopt Facebook for Work, it'll also add yet another social network to maintain and it only fills a small niche. LinkedIn is there for your wider business network, now you'll need to use Facebook at Work for specific work projects. Not to mention the little things like keeping on top of who has permission or access to your groups, allowing Facebook on work PCS and through strict IT policies and policing Facebook personal vs business usage.

Wayne Brown, managing director, GreyPossible

I can certainly see how enhancing the data that Facebook holds on it's users around work and careers could hugely benefit their targeting capabilities, which would be attractive to advertisers.

However, I think a lot of users are likely to want to keep their 'social' lives and their 'business' separate, and I can't see compelling benefits to them of integrating them in Facebook. This might limit its success.

So I think they'll really need to make what their offering to user brilliant, to encourage them to give up their data. So far they've been pretty good at that, so I wouldn't count them out.

Bram Meuleman, strategy director, Carat

As with all these announcements it’s too early to tell what the definite effect will be, but from our perspective we see this is a positive step that will not only push Facebook’s business forward, but also opportunities for its advertisers.

By gathering both personal and professional data, they gather a more well-rounded view of someone’s identity, making Facebook more relevant. Facebook has worked hard over the last decade to refine its newsfeed algorithm and ensure we’re served interesting content (alongside relevant ads). The news feed is a device which we’re all no doubt deeply familiar with, and 'Facebook at Work' will allow us to up-weight the information relevant to our day job.

It will also add further depth to the information they hold about users. By understanding your professional alter-ego, they can further ensure the effective targeting of future advertising propositions.

Pete Durant, head of social planning, The Social Partners

It’s a common sense move as all the obvious signs show this will drive further engagement, data for targeting and overall use of Facebook-owned properties.

It will give you better targeting and be more attractive to advertisers in creating highly focused messaging. It will definitely be a success in some markets and I will personally use it, but in the UK, do the vast majority of people want or need it?

It culturally feels like a challenge as most consumers are strongly private with their profiles and associate Facebook with their personal lives. Google Docs and Enterprise, WhatsApp, email, LinkedIn and simple texting seem to amply cover other areas. It will be interesting to see the power of the brand in whether this is embraced or not – but you wouldn’t bet against it.

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