A decade in, we’ve grown so comfortable with social media platforms that it’s almost socially acceptable to blatantly browse them at work (though it might be difficult to argue their professional utility unless you work in a marketing role). In fact, the creative director of the magazine I edit messages me on Facebook more often than he sends me emails.
For the most part, that’s great. Facebook Messenger is well integrated into my life, works great on my Android phone, and is easy to use on my laptop. That said, the system’s not without its faults: Sometimes, he’ll catch me in the middle of writing a story, asking for a status update—which, as a writer, can sometimes throw me off. Other times, I’ll forget a detail he mentions in our conversation, and things get tricky when I need to reference something he said but can’t search for it with the same precision compared to Gmail. As a result of the social media platform’s universality, the line between messages best delivered through email and those that are appropriate for a friendly chat is quickly thinning. The result? An always-on mentality that causes meaning to dissipate.
On the other end of the social media spectrum are work-optimized platforms like Slack and LinkedIn—and though they’re built for professional networking, they’re not much better. It can be clunky and daunting to create a separate (read: non-Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter-esque) profile that’s professional and functional. And because your messages there come from former colleagues, former classmates, and current employers to name a few, the hodgepodge of resulting messages you receive in these platforms can become confusing.
In other words, none of the existing options for professional social media or messaging apps hit the mark when it comes to being intuitive, appropriate, and supportive of a work environment.
Who might be waiting in the wings ready to take a familiar platform into new territory?
Workplace is Facebook’s attempt at creating a professional social network and achieving marketing transformation through a different sector of the professional marketplace. Instead of tempting businesses with consumer-facing products like Business pages or Messenger for Business, Facebook is hoping to appeal to dynamic companies that recognize Facebook’s omnipresence in their employees’ lives. By creating a business-only parallel News Feed and messaging app, the platform hopes to reach companies and their employees where they already are. With Workplace, employees no longer have to cringe when we hear our bosses over our shoulders when we’re mid-News Feed.
So, what exactly makes the platform ideal for intraoffice communication?
Facebook Workplace demolishes Slack in terms of cost per worker, and the Facebook platform is already proven, trusted, and universally understood. It’s currently ad-free, which means that every single graphic and word in the Workplace-specific News Feed and Messenger has been generated by your coworkers.
It remains to be seen how well Workplace can support collaboration on a given project as compared to Google Docs. But the platform’s potential for collaboration on a grander scale are obvious. For example: If you’re like me, you often have to ping the departments you don’t directly interact with to find out what they’re doing, or else be tasked with working on a product you never knew your company was spearheading. Imagine if, instead of wondering who’s doing what, you could scroll your Workplace News Feed and find images and updates on products, campaigns, and reports in a format you understand.
The last thing we (or our bosses) want is to have to learn how to use another app or tool that doesn’t quite work the way we wish it did. Learning curves and inefficiencies cost companies a lot of money, either in sunk costs for new products or in lost productivity or both. While some question the efficacy of Facebook Workplace, even in a best case scenario, I see this more casual-yet-inevitable marriage of existing product to new use case as a harbinger of more crossover products from established players in various fields. Many people in the workplace have grown up right alongside these technology tools. (Who here remembers when you had to have a .edu email address to get a Facebook account?) It just makes sense for the tools to grow with us—rather than for new players to attempt to reinvent the wheel.
Social media platforms are too powerful and prevalent to ignore in the professional sphere—but how they integrate into our existing workflows and lives is still very much in flux. One thing is certain: Facebook’s suite of products is already integral to the way your employees consume content and collaborate. Whether you’re thinking about implementing Facebook Workplace in your office or just seeking marketing transformation through an enhanced understanding of the digital experience, that’s a fact you won’t want to ignore.