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What happens when you introduce Facebook features like Messages, Events, and News Feed to the office? The answer lies in the corporate world’s reception of Facebook’s latest application, Facebook at Work. Introduced on January 14, Mark Zuckerberg’s newest brainchild has yet to score points with business leaders. At this rate, it may never reach the same glorified status as good old, regular Facebook.
In fact, some critics seem to downright detest the new corporate version of Facebook. Oliver Burkeman of theguardian.com calls it a “manifestly terrible idea” that could easily turn the everyday office into a “dystopian hell-hole of paranoia and confusion.”
Here’s a look at six reasons why America’s business leaders are clucking their tongues at Zuckerberg’s offering.
Wired.com writer Davey Alba recently penned an article titled “‘Facebook at Work’ Launches So You Can Never Not Be on Facebook.” Alba’s title is good for a chuckle, but it’s also painfully accurate. As of December 2014, Facebook boasted an average of 890 million active users per day. The median amount of time spent on Facebook per visit is 18 minutes, and about 28 percent of all users between the ages of 18-34 visit the site before their feet hit the ground in the morning.
Frankly, some people are burnt out on Facebook – even when they can’t tear their eyes away. and others prefer to keep their workplace free of the time suck that haunts them at home.
Hard-core researchers like University of Michigan’s Ethan Koss and mainstream theorists like Dr. Douglas Kenrick in Psychology Today have documented the negative psychological effects of using Facebook. Before Facebook at Work, the one place the controversial entity supposedly didn’t fly was the workplace. Now, Zuckerberg wants to monopolize people’s time between the hours of nine and five as well.
But Facebook has left a sour taste in many mouths — even the addicts. The sting of Facebook envy, the loneliness of solitary Internet use — these phenomena are real and painful. People are hurting. They’re leery of Facebook, and inviting it into the workplace just doesn’t whet the appetite.
Another reason business moguls aren’t tripping over the carpet to invite Facebook inside relates to Facebook’s financial motivation. We’re all painfully aware of the goal behind Zuckerberg’s addictive social platform: money. Sidebars crawl with advertisements. News feeds spew sponsored ads and suggested headlines. Recreationally, we look beyond these annoyances in order to connect with friends and family online. Nevertheless, we know the ads are there.
Since its inception, Facebook’s efficacy as an ad machine has skyrocketed. In Q4 of 2014, the company raked in$3.85 billion in revenue. $2.62 billion of that cash rolled in as advertising profits. Revenue has shot up each quarter since 2009, when the roller coaster ride began.
To conceive of Facebook as a helpful office tool with altruistic motives is too much for jaded people. And with good reason.
Facebook at Work’s low price tag — free — might entice a handful of business leaders, but could it realistically keep up with the ever-changing needs of the business world? Some seasoned business professionals believe that entrusting a multimillion-dollar business’s security with Facebook seems risky, even silly.
For recreational purposes, Facebook costs nothing. However, consumers who partake of the platform pay with an invisible currency: their personal data. In 2011, Zuckerberg’s company denied the use of tracking bugs for data mining purposes. But, last June, the entity announced that it would be disregarding all “Do Not Track” settings. Facebook is the “Big Brother” of today’s digital world.
How can corporations trust an entity that baits consumers for their personal data? In short, they can’t. AJ Bellarosa, digital director of the Bluewolf global business consulting firm, echoes this sentiment, saying, “companies need to feel that they can communicate . . . without being tracked by the host platform.”
If Facebook at Work costs even a nominal fee, the company’s motives might seem pure. However, Facebook offers the service for free, and that raises eyebrows . . . and suspicions.
Facebook has served the masses for years, but its enterprise resume is a paltry one. Analyst Daniel Rasmus worries that the platform’s experiences won’t translate to the corporate world, that its applications will be useless, even “wrong.” Like a person with a communications degree who applies for the job of brain surgeon, a bit of a gap exists between the two fields. Nevertheless, no hospital administrator in his right mind would hire a communications major to perform delicate brain surgeries.
Perhaps Zuckerberg and his team poured their hearts and souls into this new product. The problem is that potential customers don’t see that. When potential customers imagine Facebook at Work as an enterprise tool, they recall their personal Facebook experiences. Thoughts of FarmVille, Diamond Dash, and Candy Crush Saga spring to mind. These thoughts aren’t professional enough to sustain a corporation. When in doubt, it’s easier to stick with established enterprise social networks like Yammer or Chatter.
Privacy is a top concern in most trades. Facebook’s reputation for safeguarding privacy missed the boat long ago. Even if workers were to learn every privacy setting and jump through every hoop, problems would still arise. Private information would trickle out.
Consider the unfortunate saga of a transgender woman, formerly a man, who inadvertently sent a co-worker a Gchat message using her male name. How many of us have accidentally texted a private, potentially embarrassing message to the wrong person due to human error? Many employees tread lightly at work as it is. Throwing Facebook into the mix would just add another layer of stress to the work day.
Watching Zuckerberg’s latest idea get slammed is like watching the star quarterback in high school get turned down for a prom date. Zuckerberg, in fact, made his first million shortly after graduating high school. However, even the world’s brightest and best entrepreneurs come up with a floppy idea once in a while, and Facebook at Work could well end up in that category.