Can Facebook Help You Do Your Job Better?

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“Facebook” and “work” are two terms which when talked about in the same sentence will most likely make you think of distractions and hours wasted surfing through endless posts, pictures and check-ins. Numerous studies have demonstrated that social media sites such as Facebook are among the biggest productivity diminishing offenders in the workplace.

However, Mark Zuckerberg is attempting to remedy that with his new venture Facebook at Work, the latest in the big wave of “social media for enterprise” products in the market. Facebook at Work is currently available to a handful of companies who are testing the product ahead of its launch later this year. Here we’ll take a look at how the popular website which connects billions worldwide socially can foster collaboration and unlock productivity in the workplace, and also why this might be one of Zuckerberg’s biggest gambles yet.

It’s like Facebook, for work!

It is really quite simple, anything you can currently do with your personal Facebook page, you can apply to the workplace version. Setting up is easy to do, simply create a new Facebook at Work account which is separate from your personal account. All those authorized to connect and share in a corporate network can see, like, comment, share and collaborate on the items most relevant to them on their Newsfeed. Features such as Groups can become portals whereby departments can share ideas and make decisions. Events offers an easy-to-set up meeting scheduler or conference planner. Chat and messenger replaces IM and email for seamless real-time communication and the search tool offers an easy way to find files, posts and people you need to do help with projects and do your job better. The only real difference on the surface between Facebook at Work and your personal account is the lack of ads (yay!) the color scheme (sorry, this means will your boss will still know whether you’re working or you’re stalking your ex when they take a glance at your screen as they pass by your cubicle!).

We already know how to use it!

In a world where social media for enterprise tools are on the rise, yet failing in adoption and engagement, Facebook’s clear advantage in the market stems from familiarty. Familiar to a billion users sweeping across all demographics with global reach: the argument is that employees will use it in a corporate setting simply because they know how to.

Facebook at Work is currently being tested by nearly 300 companies including Royal Bank of Scotland, which has 10,000 employees using the service, and with 15,000 workers at Club Med, said Julien Codorniou, the chief strategist behind the Facebook at Work project. And demand is high – more than 60,000 companies have already asked to be in on the not-so-secret beta test, according to a December 2015 report by The Wall Street Journal.

“A more connected workplace is a more productive workplace,” Codorniou told Fortune. “We want to do that for everyone in the company—from the CEO to the latest new employee at a retail store.”

Some reports claim that Facebook plan to release the product as a free SAAS with the option to upgrade to include integrations with enterprise software applications such as Salesforce, more detailed analytics and enhanced customer support.

Good for Social = Good for Work?

One potential challenge is that the enterprise social marketplace is already littered with workflow tools. Enterprise social platforms such as Slack, Yammer, and Salesforce Chatter have been on the scene for a long time and are constantly making improvements to the way corporations engage and share content.

However, despite the perceived value they bring to the workplace, they haven’t quite had the impact many predicted they would. Earlier this year research firm IDC downgraded its forecast for annual revenue growth in the worldwide enterprise social networks market. Annual revenue is now expected to hit $3.5 billion by 2019, from $1.46 billion in 2014, growing about 19% per year over five years. That’s down from its forecast of 23% last year, and 42% in 2012.

The biggest obstacle? Emails: the lifeline of all corporate communications in the past thirty years which Mr. Codorniou describes as “an inherently top-down method of communication meant for broadcasting information as opposed to exchanging it.” But emails are still relevant and aren’t leaving the corporate scene any time soon. According to Radicati (a technology market research firm) the number of email accounts is expected to grow from 4.1 billion accounts in 2014 to over 5.2 billion accounts by the end of 2018. The total number of email users around the world (for both business and and consumers) is also increasing from over 2.5 billion to over 2.8 billion in 2018. In fact, by 2018 business email will account for over 139.4 billion emails sent and received a day.

In order for Facebook at Work to establish itself as an essential workflow tool, it must work to differentiate itself from its competitors in the crowded market place and also demonstrate that chatter and the methods we use to connect and share in our personal interactions can provide meaningful channels for productivity in the workplace.

Check out it Facebook at Work, and stay tuned for more updates!

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