Facebook has recently announced that it intends to launch “Facebook At Work” in an attempt to respond the growing membership of LinkedIN and the popularity of file sharing and other office products offered by Microsoft and Google. But in doing so it could overstretch itself, invite retaliation and further lose credibility.
Growing fears about the security of personal data on social networking sites has been fuelled by privacy breaches in recent years. But it is one thing to compromise data posted by individuals on sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, but quite another if breaches take place when their employer has posted the data or personal data is viewed in the workplace. The EU’s Data Protection Directive, for instance, places strict constraints on the exchange of personal data by companies – especially if this means transmission of such data to locations outside the European Union.
The launch of “Facebook at Work” is a clear challenge to Facebook’s principal networking rivals and also companies providing a wide range of file-sharing and team working software . – including Google and Microsoft. Meeting such rivals head on in an increasing mature market could weaken everyone concerned., especially if it further sensitizes employers to the issues of workplace confidentiality and cthe ostly distractions of social networking – which can have such a big impact on productivity.
Robin Chater, Founder of the new online business networking community ‘ButN’ welcomes this development. “ It will be interesting to see the heavyweights in the social networking market fighting it out for business users. Facebook can see how quickly LinkedIn is growing – in spite of its many critics – and think it can do better. But I am afraid neither organization really understands the business market like we do. butN has just completed its beta testing and we have extensively analyzed current offerings, so that we can provide something radically different. We also originate from the world’s leading employer organization – so we are insiders in the business networking market. “
The writing could be on the wall for Facebook if it ventures too far. For proof of this it is only necessary to look at “We Chat”, the Chinese social networking App launched in 2010 which claims to have over 600 million users (mainly in China). Although its owner Tencent Holdings wants it to become the largest networking site in the world recent reports suggest that it has overextended and is now losing members.
The future of networking will not be through big communities – but via niche players like butN. butN aims its sites on two important groups – business travellers and networking within companies in order to forge connections across corporate functions and engender greater employee engagement. Both services can only be effectively developed from within the business community – which gives butN considerable edge.
ButN’s business model is also very different from any other networking organization as it will eventually be owned to a significant extent by its users who will benefit from any windfall that comes from its stock market launch or acquisition.