After more than two years in closed beta, Facebook has finally launched an open version of Workplace for Facebook, and adaptation of all Facebook tools (personal profiles, groups, instant messaging, video, etc.) for professional environments. The social network is entering a relatively untapped market, populated largely by elderly and rusty intranets, Microsoft’s Yammer, unicorn Slack, or upcoming roll-outs such as the one that LinkedIn is supposedly preparing.
Workplace for Facebook costs $3 per active user for companies with up to a thousand users, drops to $1 for more than ten thousand, and is free for non-profit or educational organizations.
Companies that choose to use it will have to overcome any problems they might have with sharing information with Facebook, along with prejudices that still associate the social networks as a place where their employees waste their time: finally, a tool developed on the same basis as Facebook will try to become the central nervous system that transmits companies’ internal information and that will meet the challenge of channeling vital internal communication.
The great truth is that for a long time now the tools used in corporate environments have been well below what we have used in the personal sphere. The old intranets, which really only worked in a very few cases, ended up as bulletin boards used by few people.
The deployment of tools using the Microsoft environment, based on a suite in permanent flux due to acquisitions and adaptations that seem to have narrowed down to Skype for Business and Yammer, has left most companies dissatisfied with their performance and barely active internal communication processes, while the industry leader now is upstart Slack, created by the great Stewart Butterfield, who has obviously no intention of selling it, following his horrendous experience with the sale of Flickr to Yahoo! The company is doing well after several rounds of financing that put its value at around $4 billion. In the middle are interesting players such as LinkedIn, which announced in early 2015 its own internal communication tool, but that has yet to see the light of day.
Such tools are important, yes. But my own experience is that good internal communication is more about corporate culture. The idea of using an interface and tools as well known as those of Facebook for internal communication is interesting, but will not work if a company is hierarchical, or in general, does not give much importance to internal communication.
Slack is one of the most flexible tools I know: it can incorporate just about anything, is easy to use, has a nice interface, has an extraordinarily open freemium model and has done a very good job of becoming known without any advertising. The price of Slack for those who want full functionality without limits is higher than Workplace: between $6.67 and $12.50 per user. Those who recommend Slack do so because they have used it and because they have understood that the key to its functionality is an API able to connect anything (shared documents, ticketing systems, alerts, news, forums, etc., with a very efficient search function… and that it can be used for jokes or just about anything else). But as a rule, it has been taken up by companies that put a premium on internal communication. As said, tools are important and can make things easier, but effective internal communication fundamentally relies on a culture of communication a priori.
Slack seems more flexible to me than Workplace, although Facebook’s network has a partners program to try to create that all-important ecosystem of tools that work within the corporate network.
At the moment, Workplace has been taken up by a bunch of well-known companies from various industries who have tried the system (Booking.com, Campbell’s, Club Med, Danone, Free Market, TBWA, Telekom Austria and Telenor among others, in addition to organizations such as Save the Children or Oxfam), and that were probably very skeptical, given Facebook’s bad reputation in the corporate environment and other misgivings about privacy. Most users will already have been familiar with the interface, regardless of their age. Of course, one thing is to use Facebook for personal communication, and quite another is to use Workplace for professional purposes. But in any case, given the shift toward virtual environments any tools that can improve the all-important internal communication are more than welcome.
(En español, aquí)