In my prior two blog posts, I talked about who I think Facebook At Work should target and the kinds of use cases it should support. The last thing to discuss is why anyone would bother to use it. After all, humans are creatures of habit - using something new means putting in effort and changing habits.
Before we dive into individual motivations, I have to cover some assumptions about the types of companies that will use Facebook At Work. At Sitrion, our customer base includes a number of companies who can’t or don’t want to use a cloud-based service. For many of them, the privacy or compliance requirements they have make a cloud-service not a viable choice. So I’m assuming Facebook At Work is not used at this type of company.
Also, I’m assuming that Facebook At Work is not used as a primary social platform for companies who already have successful enterprise social deployments. I think there are lots of interesting integration stories if Facebook At Work covers the kinds of use cases I proposed. We have built integrations from our Sitrion Social product to services like Salesforce.com Chatter, Yammer, and Twitter to solve use cases that bridge these platforms. I can foresee Facebook At Work being another integration.
But I think the primary targets for Facebook At Work are companies who don’t have platforms that target the core use cases. So that means their end users don’t have a flexible channel for sharing, asking questions, or having a conversation around documents. If that’s the case, the only alternative the end user has for a lot of these situations is email. The big advantage Facebook At Work (or any social platform) has over email is that the communication isn’t sent to only a list of specific people. Sharing or asking a question in these platforms allows the information to travel where it needs to go based on what the platform knows. That’s a huge advantage for these use cases, and I think it’s compelling enough to get a user to adopt something new.
Similarly, an elegant way to share documents and hold a conversation around them can have a big advantage over email. File size limits in emails often cripple communication. And with email, it’s easy to get multiple different copies of the document floating around. Again, a well-implemented capability from Facebook could make this compelling for users.
Most of the business champion stories can only be solved by Facebook At Work. If you want to amplify a message, search for experts, or find business contacts inside personal Facebook networks, Facebook At Work is the only option. Other technologies exist to try to get your users to amplify your marketing message across their personal networks, and LinkedIn is quite powerful as a place to find experts and contacts. So clearly there are alternatives for the general use case. But Facebook has an opportunity here to leverage a tremendous amount of data that other social services do not have. This should create a very convincing reason for someone in the business to support Facebook At Work.
Facebook At Work may end up being nothing like what I’ve described in these posts. Facebook may have different objectives for the product. Still any successful product is made with a user in mind, an understanding of their needs, and reasons why they don’t meet those needs in some other way. So I wanted to take a couple minutes to tell you how I would look at things if I built Facebook At Work. Now it’s time for me to get back to my regular job of building Sitrion products :)