Social networking for business: Will Facebook At Work work?
With half the country in full-on December swing it seems rather Grinch-ish to be focusing on what happens after Christmas. Nevertheless, January will be here before we know it, and as such it pays to be prepared.
One of the biggest talking points of recent weeks, social-media-speaking, is the imminent arrival of Facebook At Work, which, according to some commentators, could be with us as early as next month. Put simply, this is a brand new, stand-alone platform created by Camp Zuckerberg in a bid to outdo LinkedIn on the communities-for-enterprise front. That’s quite a task, when you consider LinkedIn hit the 300million members mark back in April this year, at which point the majority of users were ‘international’, i.e. not based within the U.S., making for something of a global online business community.
Of course Facebook has plenty of experience at doing the almost-unthinkable. How a social network for an elite university managed to become a go-to means of instant communication and opinion sharing for more than 1billion is beyond us. Notwithstanding the clever algorithms, tactile gradual expansion plan, massive level of inbound investment and huge glaring gap in the marketplace at the time it launched, what the Big Blue Book has achieved is remarkable when you consider we’re still in its first decade of existence.
But can the platform be adapted to become a bonafide business tool?
The industry press has been quick to point out several gaping holes in the plan, not least the fact people are already feeling their time is stretched by the number of networks they have accounts on. Further to that, there are enormous trust issues when it comes to establishing Facebook At Work. A huge number of major firms have already taken steps to block the original Facebook from in-house web browsers in a bid to reduce staff distractions. Then there are issues surrounding the distribution of information via social networks- will confidentiality be safeguarded sufficiently to satisfy would-be-users? The jury is still out on these points.
Clearly if those two items are not addressed Facebook At Work will be dead in the water when it’s dropped into the proverbial sea for that sink or swim baptism of fire. Nevertheless, by all accounts LinkedIn is not necessarily the platform it professes to be. As a means of reaching out to potential professional contacts the network is great- anyone with a profile will know just how regularly they come across someone that could well prove useful to know, or how often someone makes contact with them that may, in the future, serve a real purpose. But the question is, in a world reliant on conversions, how many of these actually make a difference in the long run?
Let’s look at a few facts.
Back in 2012, according to research by HubSpot, LinkedIn was 277% more effective at generating B2B and B2C leads than Facebook and Twitter, with 2.74% of visits resulting in a genuine lead. That was bad news for the other two networks, but realistically 2.74% is still a relatively low figure when you consider that circa 2013 2% of cold calls would result in an appointment, if this Slideshare from Buzzbuilder Lead Generation Software is to be believed…