Facebook Workplace: What can it do for your organisation?

Facebook Workplace wants to be the tool that your organisation can't do without - but can it make itself indispensable or is it just another app to check?

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Facebook Workplace

Using any metric you want, Facebook is the undisputed king of social media.

Mark Zuckerberg’s creation was already a global giant even before it started borrowing ideas from the competition. But after mopping up the best bits of its rivals (and literally taking over Instagram), Facebook now has something to offer everyone. Including business users.

The launch of Facebook Workplace in October 2016 was a natural progression. Facebook had been using a version of its platform as an internal business channel at HQ for years, and the only surprise was that it took them so long to release it to the wider world.

While many business users have LinkedIn accounts, using mainstream social media as a workplace tool hasn’t really taken off in western countries. Though that’s not to say such tools don’t exist.

The likes of Slack, Yammer, Microsoft Teams and Atlassian will be familiar names to many business users. But why has it taken Facebook so long to try and get a slice of the action? Why train staff to use a new product they’ve never heard of when they’ve already spent the last decade using Facebook?

The hugely popular Chinese messaging platform, WeChat, has made significant in-roads into the Chinese workplace. So much so that a recent survey found that fewer than 20 per cent of WeChat users said that they don’t use WeChat for work. More than half (58 per cent) said that they use the platform daily for work-related communications.

So if an existing social media platform can pivot so successfully towards a business audience, why can’t Facebook?

Has Workplace taken off?

Yes, according to Facebook. A handful of companies were invited to test Workplace in the year before it launched, an experiment that Facebook said was a resounding success.

“We’ve been amazed by the breadth of organisations who’ve embraced Workplace,” the company said on its official blog. “From a shipping company that can now connect with their ship crews using Live video, to a bank that now uses Workplace instead of fax machines and newsletters to share updates with its distributed bank branches.

“Large multinational companies like Danone, Starbucks and Booking.com, international nonprofits such as Oxfam, and regional leaders such as YES Bank in India and the Government Technology Agency of Singapore have all embraced Workplace.”

Facebook Workplace

At its F8 conference in April, Facebook announced that Workplace is now used in 77 languages across more than 14,000 organisations who have created more than 400,000 groups.

The latest range of brands to board include Starbucks, Viacom, Discovery Communications, the Singapore government, Campbell Soup and AirAsia.

Just six months after launch, it’s too early to make any judgements on whether Workplace has become another Facebook success story. If those 14,000 organisations are still using Workplace on a daily basis a year from now and the userbase has grown significantly, then perhaps it’ll be here to stay. Until then, the jury is still out.

The features

Facebook Workplace exists in a separate space from your personal Facebook account. If your company signs up you’ll have to create a new account rather than piggy-backing on your existing personal one. Furthermore, the space you sign up for will only include people who work for your organisation.

Facebook say they’ve used the best bits of their traditional platform in Workplace. So there’ll be the familiar news feed, the ability to communicate and brainstorm in groups (handy for specific teams or departments), search, reactions and trending posts.

Facebook Workplace

Users can also go Live if they wish, which will come in useful for presentations or company announcements.

But organisation accounts needn’t exist in a vacuum. Facebook are keen for employees to communicate with different organisations without leaving the app, and created Multi-Company Groups for that purpose.

More recent additions include bots and integrations with Box, Microsoft, Dropbox and Quip/Salesforce. This means that if you share a file in a Workplace group, a thumbnail will be displayed and users can go directly to the file for editing or commenting.

There is also an analytics dashboard and functionality for IT teams to integrate the platform with their own systems.

All these features are included in the Premium package, which is priced at $3 per user for the first 1,000 active users, $2 each for the next 9,000, then $1 each for each additional user on top of that.

Free version

Facebook recently announced a free version of Workplace aimed at SMEs. Called Workplace Standard, this version contains all the functionality of the Premium option minus the analytics and IT tools.

The verdict

Facebook naturally points to a number of success stories on its website, but what is Workplace really like to use?

Our friends at OST Marketing recently took Workplace for a test drive. Here’s what they made of it…

Jeremy Taylor, B2B account director

We were all very excited when we got access to Workplace. We immediately went in and created a series of groups to give us a place to organise social events, publish relevant industry news, and be able to chat in teams. The hope was that it would cut out ‘staff@’ emails and keep internal email traffic to a minimum.

After a few days, the novelty wore off and we stopped checking in. I think the main reason for that was simply that it was yet another app to check. We already had a couple of Whatsapp groups going and inevitably fell back into using those for social comms and Skype for work IM.

We’re still aiming to reduce the amount of internal email traffic, so we may revisit it (or an alternative) in future. But as we’re already using Podio for project management, I expect that will be the route we’ll go down for internal comms as well.

Why it’s good

  • It’s Facebook, so everyone is already familiar with how it works
  • You can create multiple groups, teams and projects so that you can communicate with only those you need to
  • You can send announcements without clogging up inboxes
  • It’s possible to add a fun space where staff can virtually let their hair down

Why it’s bad

  • It’s yet another app to check
  • Do most people want to be using Facebook for work when it’s perceived as a social tool? Not sure
  • There’s a cost involved – when Whatsapp and Skype are free

So will it catch on? I can definitely see the appeal, which is why we tried it. But I’ve always found Whatsapp more user friendly than Messenger. If that weren’t the case, we’d still be there!

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