Back in November, we learned that Facebook was testing a new product called Facebook at Work - a version of Facebook for businesses. We also learned it would launch in January, and now, it has surfaced as an iOS app.
Facebook says you can use Facebook at Work from a desktop computer or from a variety of mobile phones and tablets, but it looks like only the iOS app is live so far. It's still missing from the Google Play store, though help documentation indicates it's available for Android, so that should be appearing soon.
Here are the sceenshots Apple's App Store gives us:
The app requires iOS 7 or later, and is compatible with the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. It's optimized for iPhone 5, 6, and 6 Plus.
What it does is let you create a work account that is separate from your personal Facebook account. You can use it to interact with co-workers, and the things you share with that account will only be visible to other people at your company. You can still access things that are shared publicly on Facebook with your work account. You can only set up a work account by clicking an email you receive if the company is using Facebook at Work. You can also do that from [YourCompanyName].facebook.com when that becomes available to you.
When you set up a work account, you can connect it to your personal account so that you can switch between the two, and use the same username/password (which which won't be shared with your employer). Facebook explains:
When you share something from your work account, you can share it with everyone at your company or make it only visible to you by selecting the Only Me option. Posts set to Only Me won't appear in your co-workers' News Feeds unless you tag them in the post. If you share something with everyone at your company, anyone with a work account at your company can see it, but it isn't visible to people outside of your company.
The people who manage Facebook at Work at your company can access anything you share from your work account, just as they might access your work emails and other work files.
When you set up a work account, the profile includes information provided by the employer (such as name, job title, work contact info) automatically. You'll have to ask the human resources department if you wish to have anything edited. You can, however, still personalize your profile with a profile picture, cover photo, and additional details in the About section.
If you want to try out a Facebook work account, but your employer isn't using Facebook at Work, Facebook is encouraging you to contact them so they can send you additional info. Presumably, you can then use this info to try and convince your boss to start using it.
Facebook notes that Facebook at Work is completely separate from Business Manager, which is a tool for managing ads and Pages.
Patrick Rusby, Research Analyst at Analysys Mason, said, "Facebook at Work has the potential to be a disruptive force in the enterprise social network market. Increasingly enterprises are adopting technologies that are first used by their employees outside of work, as was the case with smartphones. Facebook itself has features which would appeal as part of an enterprise social network (such as instant messaging, link and document sharing, presence and integration with a wide range of devices)."
It will be interesting to see how businesses respond to Facebook at Work and if it becomes a widely used tool for workplace communication. It will also be interesting to see what kinds of features Facebook adds as time goes on.
"Facebook at Work will need to provide an email service (or integration with existing email clients), integration with existing scheduling/calendar platforms and a sensible file management system in order to be taken seriously in this space, but these could be solved," said Rusby.
Facebook is still in the testing process according to Facebook's Lars Rasmussen, who told TechCrunch the product is aimed initially at companies with 100 or more employees, and may even be a paid product. Ingrid Lunden, who interviewed him, speculates that there could be a tiered model, which might include an ad-supported free version.
"Monetisation is an interesting point here," Rusby said. "Due to privacy/confidentiality issues relating to internal company communications, this will need to be a paid for service, as enterprises will not accept adverts being pushed at them based on the content of internal, private discussions."
"This is unlikely to be a huge new revenue stream on its own, given that it would be competing with Yammer, which is well established in this space," he added. "However, this would be a new, recurring revenue stream, and it would put Facebook in front of people for more of the day, which may serve to increase engagement with Facebook in general."
For now, we'll have to wait and see what Facebook says about Facebook at Work when it gives the product a proper launch.
Images via iTunes