Today, Facebook officially jumped into the enterprise social networking space with Facebook Workplace, its private social networking solution for employee collaboration.

The company left little to the imagination leading to today's launch — hundreds of beta customers have used the product and its similarity to the consumer Facebook product made us wonder just what would be newly available. Today’s announcement gave us a few new details:

  • Pricing will range from $1 to $3 per active user, per month, depending on the size of the organization
  • Companies can have a 3-month free trial
  • Non-profits and educational institutions will not have to pay for Workplace
  • A dozen or so implementation partners have been announced to provide technical and adoption services for Workplace

Advice from Someone Who Has Been There

Now that Workplace by Facebook is ready for business, some of the tens of thousands of companies that reportedly expressed interest in the product can begin their social journey. 

If you’re ready to seriously explore Workplace, here is some advice from a friendly enterprise social strategist who has launched dozens upon dozens of employee communities over the last 10 years.

1. The price is good, but watch out for the poor adoption penalty - I see negotiated licenses coming soon

Workplace is priced competitively against more expensive solutions like Jive and Slack, and the price is low enough to keep itself in contention even against something like Yammer, where the license costs are mostly rolled up into a larger software spend. 

However, unless a company is paying by credit card on a monthly basis, it will be tricky to manage the accounting of active users and how much to actually pay.

Procurement teams will see this and immediately go into negotiation-mode. We believe that Workplace will have to move to an enterprise-wide license model to gain real corporate adoption. Which brings us to the next key point …

2. Your have ONE chance to launch Workplace correctly

There is no rush to launch. Take your time. 

It is much harder to go back and “fix” an ailing community than to launch a fantastic one. 

The best enterprise social network launches have distinct plans aligned to the business values that you want to achieve. Companies should invest in a Community Manager to build a strategy and execute on the plan in cooperation with IT. 

Additionally, the free 3-month trial period for new customers doesn’t begin until January, 2017. If you can ramp up and soft-launch before then, you can extend your free trial. 

However, we have learned across countless launches that mid-November through the end of December is not the optimal time to launch across your company. Too many people are on vacation and winding down the end of the year. 

It is, however, a fantastic time to start building a small team of evangelists and superusers to try out the community and seed content privately. If you’re going to start in the last few weeks of the year, take advantage of the extra time for planning and experimentation. Leave the formal announcements and programming until next year.

3. If you hire outside consultants, it’s not all about the suits

The best-run communities are managed by current employees of an organization, not a team of MBAs billing at $400 an hour each. While the Big Consulting Firms can do fantastic work in certain areas, building a strategy for enterprise social networking programs isn’t their wheelhouse. 

Facebook announced a few launch partners today, and companies may want to partner with them. Your outside experts should be well-versed in not only the strategic alignment of your social network to overall company goals, but also the day to day inner workings of your community, common adoption and engagement programs, how to align Workplace features to your larger initiatives, and the psychology of active users versus lurkers. 

Not sure if your consulting firm is the real deal? Here’s a pop quiz you can administer in your first interview. If they can’t answer these questions correctly and immediately, it’s time to move on.

Enterprise Social Networking Pop Quiz

  1. What does AMA stand for in the world of community management?
  2. Describe an appropriate scenario to send an Announcement message.
  3. Does the 90-9-1 rule of participation inequality apply to enterprise social networks? If not, what’s a more appropriate breakdown?
  4. What are three key differences between Workplace and Yammer or Slack?
  5. What is the best way to provide day-to-day platform support for the user base of Workplace without breaking the bank?
  6. Name three companies where you have personally helped launch an enterprise social network.

Looking for the answers? You can find them here.

One Giant Leap for Facebook …

… but just one more vendor to choose from for companies already navigating the crowded enterprise social networking market. 

The next three months will be telling for everyone from Microsoft Yammer to Jive to Slack and Facebook. Will companies buy in to the newfound excitement in the industry? Will Workplace be transformative to corporate communications, or will it play a constant game of catch-up just to fit in? 

The fourth quarter of the year is always software-license-buying season. What’s going to happen now that enterprise social is back in the spotlight after several near-death experiences? It’s time to bust out the popcorn and watch the show — I think it’s going to be good.

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