For years, Facebook has been our go-to social media platform for after work banter, sharing funny videos, and connecting with friends. All that is about to change with Facebook launching Workplace, a business-centric communication network intended for the office.
Workplace, previously known as ‘Facebook at Work’ had been in pilot since 2015 with more than 1,000 organisations and businesses already using it during the past year, particularly in the U.S., U.K., Norway, France and India. With the end of the testing phase and Workplace being made available to all, those numbers may soon change.
Workplace, at its core, has all the usual Facebook features - chats, newsfeed, live videos, reactions, group pages and search, designed solely for the kind of interactions that you would have with your colleagues, clients, agencies or partners but it isn’t linked in any way to your personal account for the social network. Additionally, Workplace offers some new features especially designed for businesses like multi-company groups, analytics dashboards, conference audio calling, and one-to-one video calling in high definition. There’s also a new Workplace Partner program, a group of tech and service organisations aimed at bringing Workplace to more businesses.
"We already use tech to make our personal lives easier," said Nicola Mendelsohn - Facebook's Vice President of Europe, the Middle East and Africa - at the launch event. "It's high time that we put that same kind of power towards business”.
This is the first time that the social media giant has launched its own mass market platform that is separate from its core social network. With Workplace, Facebook aims to disrupt the enterprise messaging and collaboration market based on its competitive pricing and well-known user interface. The enterprise software space is highly competitive and this move by Facebook may initiate a full-blown rivalry with the likes of other business-centric communication products such as Slack, Cisco Park, Yammer and Chatter.
To tap into the demand, Facebook has adopted a competitive tier-pricing system where it will be charging only $3 per month for up to 1000 active monthly users. Moreover, it is free for all educational and non-profit organisations. Slack, a popular cloud based collaboration system launched in 2013 and the closest competitor to Facebook’s Workplace charges a whopping $6.67 per month for the Standard version, more than double its fee. Although the basic version of Slack is free, the rates can go as high as $12.50 for the Plus version.
The relatively low price of the service shows that Facebook is making it a priority to get people adopting and engaging with Workplace rather than focusing on revenue straight off the bat. It's a strategy that's worked well before, both for the company's social network and for Instagram, where it secured a large and loyal audience before it started to bring in ads.
Another major strength of Workplace is how familiar users already are with Facebook. It’s almost impossible to tell Workplace apart from the consumer version of Facebook and this could be a huge advantage for businesses that wouldn’t need to train their employees on how to use it.
All said and done, Slack does provide more features than Workplace including extra attention from customer support and customisable groups for users. Workplace is cheaper but it still doesn’t provide all the functions that other software portfolios like Slack and Yammer offer.
That is probably why Facebook has strategically partnered with Microsoft and Google by having their products integrate with Workplace at launch. The plan, for now at least, appears to be for Workplace to complement, rather than replace, other corporate software programs.
Facebook Workplace will be available immediately to all companies and organisations globally with the multi-company group feature set to be added in the coming weeks.