Can any network match LinkedIn in the workplace social media sector?
Well, naturally you would assume not, as LinkedIn has pretty much sown up that slice of the professional market and has so far faced no real competition to speak of. However, things could be about to change if reports in the Independent and Financial Times newspapers turn out to be correct. The papers are claiming that Facebook is set to launch its own career-focused social network to rival LinkedIn, and that could potentially change the workplace social media landscape irrevocably.
So what is this new network and what will it do?
Well, ‘Facebook at Work’ will allow users to collaborate on documents and communicate with colleagues and work connections, the paper reported today. It will apparently look similar to its existing social network, but users will be able to keep their personal profiles separate, the papers say. The question that is obviously begged by these reports is why is Facebook doing this? The answer it seems is pretty self-evident – it’s part of Mark Zuckerberg’s master plan to extend the reach of the social media behemoth which already attracts an audience of 1.35 billion active users.
What will this professional network look like?
Well, pretty much like the one you’re already using really. You’ll still be able to chat and share pictures and messages on the social side, but with Facebook at Work you’ll also be able to chat with colleagues, build professional networks and share documents. Facebook has not yet officially confirmed the existence of Facebook at Work, but the new product is already believed to be in use internally at Facebook. If it is eventually rolled out on the network it could offer strong competition not just to LinkedIn, but also to Google Drive and Microsoft Office.
Although the social network is tremendously popular, some employers remain sceptical about the usefulness of social media at work, and have therefore banned its use in the office. Many employers will also balk at the thought of more time-wasting distractions that get in the way of greater productivity. Never the less, some media experts believe Facebook at Work may prove to be beneficial in the longer term, but not necessarily in the way you might expect. Prof Andre Spicer, of Cass Business School, told the BBC:
“Facebook at Work is likely to bring some benefits to companies – but not the ones they think. It is unlikely to make employees more productive, but it will help them to be more connected and aware”, he said.
“Social media sites like Facebook help employees to build ‘weak ties’. These are people we would talk to infrequently and don’t know intimately. [However] These weak ties are often a source of important background information.”
None the less, Prof Spicer accepted that the new ‘professional’ networking tool may also cause problems, and become a time-consuming distraction:
“It makes it easier for employees to accidentally leak sensitive information. It can also be a threat to hierarchy and clash with implicit or explicit chains of command.”
“Communication which could easily be dealt with face to face is pushed online – adding another potential source of information overload,” he said.
“It can also mean employees spend more time polishing their Facebook profile than actually working.”