OUR TAKE Matt Holliday
F8 2017: Facebook Workplace Could Jumpstart Employee Engagement

Facebook and work have always had a contentious relationship, with employers wary of that fine line between employees staying connected and simply falling down the rabbit hole of the newsfeed. The social site took some steps in late 2016 to formalize how Facebook could be used without too much distraction in the office with the widespread rollout of Workplace, which received some important and useful updates at F8 that make it a more realistic option for many companies. And with so many businesses considering how to encourage and enable employees to become brand ambassadors, Workplace could become the tool to create a workforce better connected to each other, and ultimately to consumers.

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How does it work?

Since its initial launch, Workplace has always been little more than a variation of all that Facebook offers, with the same features you use day-to-day on your personal Facebook accounts. Workplace is essentially Facebook connecting the dots for businesses wondering how to use the massive infrastructure of Facebook to streamline internal communication:

– Dedicated Groups pages for internal teams

– Multi-Company Groups for work with other businesses

– Facebook Live video integration for conferences and meetings

– Company-Only Newsfeed to track most recent updates to projects

– Work Chat for instant communication between employees

On the surface, there is a version of Facebook Messenger Bots that’s aimed at streamlining small tasks, like scheduling IT requests, notifying employees of appointments or meetings, and other general requests that can be easily automated. But the real improvement, and one that makes this a more realistic option for businesses considering a work communication tool like Slack or Yammer, has been made on the back end.

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Workplace is also now more integrated with software already being used by businesses, including Salesforce, Box, Office, and more. This makes sharing documents easy, with the ability to view the documents in Workplace or on their native platforms, as well as making comments and tracking changes. Most importantly, this is all optimized for mobile, so you can keep the right people connected no matter where they may be.

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Facebook has also taken some steps to help businesses feel more confident about the safety of their information, with the help of cloud compliance, e-discovery, and data loss prevention providers Netskope, Smarsh, Disco, and Skyhigh. This gives an added layer of security in a time when protecting sensitive or confidential information is becoming a priority for many organizations.

But perhaps the biggest potential of Workplace is its existence within the Facebook/Instagram ecosphere. Many companies are seeing the value of a workforce that is active on social, pushing out brand messages to create a peer-to-peer sharing of branded content. Since Workplace is simply a business version of Facebook, it would be very easy to deliver content to a group of employees connected through Workplace to then share out on their personal Facebook accounts.

Though there hasn’t been a mention of how to make this a seamless experience, Facebook would be wise to find ways to create a channel for such sharing that would also incorporate its native analytics tools to track success of shared content, and to help identify the influencers that could already be on the payroll.

Even without a direct export channel for content, the recent updates make Workplace a good option when looking at inter-office communication. There is a free version available to anyone that wants to get started, with a very affordable premium service that adds admin features and the access to APIs for custom solutions and deeper integration.

Photo credits: Facebook

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Matt Holliday, Associate Director, Social Strategy, DigitasLBi Boston