If community managers haven't yet taken note of Facebook at Work's forceful entrance onto the enterprise social networking scene, now's the time. The product is slick and easy for end users, but its overarching strategy doesn’t align with the norms inside our industry.

Editor's Note: This is the final in a three-part series

Facebook at Work’s Got 99 Problems, and Identity Management is Just 1

Attracting users with a fun and simple tool — and dealing with enterprise security needs later — is the quickest way to rapid growth. Promoting 90 percent “adoption” rates — nearly double the ESN industry standard — will get CXOs talking about Facebook’s social magic. But Facebook isn’t going to win over the enterprise with a user hostage model a la Yammer in 2009. It will need to play nicely with enterprise IT, who won’t be thrilled about employees sharing IP on the world’s biggest consumer social network. 

Until Facebook addresses key enterprise requirements, big companies will see Facebook at Work as an annoying thorn in their side. Here are several product gaps that existing enterprise social vendors have already solved for:

Identity and access management

Facebook at Work users rely on their consumer Facebook profile to create a work account. I don’t see a clean way to map the personal-account onboarding experience to an enterprise-grade single sign on experience. Enterprise vendors have been offering directory and SSO integration for years. 

Facebook’s admin panel does show a SAML configurator, so it must be in the works or potentially deployed at RBS. Details are needed before we take the product seriously. Also, from a strategic rollout perspective, how will Facebook at Work give companies control over who has access to the network and when? Measured rollouts by department or country are common and will be demanded.

E-discovery, archiving and litigation holds 

Enterprise legal will have a field day with Facebook at Work, and I don’t currently see a “data export” option on the back end. Key questions include: Where does the corporate data live? Who owns the data? Who mines it? Are enterprise servers separated from consumer social servers? How long is data retained? How can a company export data for compliance needs? 

Each enterprise has its own rules regarding data retention, and Facebook needs to be able to accommodate these to become a serious player for regulated industries.


Enterprise community managers love data. However, the “analytics” panel on the back end of Facebook at Work is lacking in every way. It shows the number of users, groups, logins and posts per week. That’s it. 

We all know that Facebook is doing really scary exciting things with data in the consumer world, so why can’t administrators see any of the metrics we know it's capturing? Companies are going to want Facebook to provide capabilities for data gathering, but they’re also going to want a promise that there will be no Big-Brothering of the data. Right now, the discrepancy between what we know Facebook is capable of and what it surfaces to administrators is unacceptable.

Pricing and Ownership

In addition to wanting to know about license pricing, companies will want to understand the cost to prevent Facebook from proliferating. How much will it cost a company to “claim” a network and shut it down? Will companies have to block Facebook at the domain level on the network to prevent users from accessing it? Is Facebook at Work going to become an unstoppable social Trojan horse that must be dealt with at a policy level to prevent usage? Companies may not be ready for their employees to use the Facebook at Work product, but is Facebook going to allow each individual company to control the timing of access?

While these are major concerns for security and legal teams, Facebook at Work is just getting started. In time, it will address these needs. Today, we must focus on preparing for the inevitable shift toward a user-first, employee-led, Facebook-controlled adoption model that Facebook at Work will foster.

Are You There, Facebook? It’s Me, the Community Manager

Despite the very collaborative and open community of enterprise community managers out there, Facebook at Work hasn't contacted any of us about this game-changing product it's building. 

Given the opportunity, I'd ask Facebook at Work’s Product Manager, Julien Codorniou, how Facebook views the concepts of value and adoption in the enterprise — the practices that we community managers have built, codified and optimized over the past several years. We know through research and practice that it takes human-focused programming to build true community and business value. 

Learning Opportunities

However, that assumes current behaviors and current toolsets. The fact that Facebook is building a product to compete with the ones we’ve managed together for years is alarming because Facebook has the power to change the entire conversation, user expectations and their behavior without our input. The resulting shift will be a complete reset on how community managers act as stewards for their community, challenging all of the norms we have created in the past decade with our current resources.

Today, the Facebook at Work product is completely optimized for the end user and does not afford the community manager to build in context and structure. There are few features available that allow for alignment between strategy and content by the community manager. The pure focus on end-user adoption strips out the ability for community managers to create strategic alignment, official content, executive participation, formal recognition programs or other key workstreams that we believe are crucial to building business value through social networking. 

This leaves two paths forward for Facebook at Work:

  1. Build in community management features — simple but important tools like highlighted content, badging and customizable invitations would help align the tool with rollout strategies. This would result in Facebook competing against entrenched enterprise vendors, yet another option when launching an enterprise social network.
  2. Maintain a pure focus on viral adoption, resulting in an industry-wide slow shift away from the concept of managed communities and toward the concept of ad-hoc, self-driven collaboration as a new normal employee behavior.

The Fight Isn't for 'The Enterprise'

Facebook is clearly moving toward the second option. Instead of fitting into existing norms, it plans to slowly and carefully create a world in which Facebook dominates and drives every person’s entire digital experience. Facebook doesn’t care about the enterprise. Facebook wants to be the de-facto digital platform that centralizes all human communications across the boundaries of personal and work relationships. The Facebook at Work product today is simply Facebook’s attempt to utilize the accepted #esn paradigm to learn about employee behavior and relationships in the workplace.

Current enterprise community managers have worked tirelessly for years to usher in new working habits. “Change management” has become a full time job for practitioners who focus shifting employee behavior away from old norms toward social collaboration. But over the next several years, cajoling, training and enticing employees to work more collaboratively will disappear as Facebook normalizes and entrenches collaborative behavior across its user base without anyone even realizing what’s happening. 

Facebook doesn’t want to compete with enterprise vendors — it plans to reshape our digital behaviors that permeate work/personal boundaries. Facebook operates the most widely-used technology in the world, and it knows that we’re addicted. This is where Facebook’s unlimited resources, powerful marketing and infinite patience will pay off. Given enough time, the CXOs of the future will expect nothing but Facebook when it comes to collaboration at work.

The Conclusion: Facebook Wins

Community Managers now must compete with Facebook, rather than entrenched employee behaviors and corporate cultures, in the battle for the adoption of social tools in the enterprise. The challenge here is that the opponent is using very different methods to fight. 

While community managers must continue to forge ahead with available tools and methodologies, Facebook is creating a brand new battlefield upon which users don’t even know they’re stepping. Community managers are limited by their means (tools, budget, culture, resources), but Facebook is dreaming up brand new means that community managers have no ability to influence. Facebook is dissolving the need for formally managed enterprise change click-by-click, while community managers are trying to harness and control change through Working out Loud campaigns and formal Digital Transformation Efforts. As it becomes apparent that Facebook is fighting for the long-term ownership of the entire human digital experience, it makes our earnest goal to improve collaboration at work feel rather small.

Ultimately, Community Managers must accept that Facebook’s dominance in the internal social industry is a real possibility in the next 10 years. This is good, because employees evolving into more collaborative teammates is exactly what we’ve wanted. On the other hand, community managers are no longer going to be driving the change. We are powerless to affect the behaviors that the world’s dominant social platform will normalize globally. 

It’s time that enterprise community managers see the inevitable changes on the horizon and begin to adapt our practices now to accommodate a world in which open digital collaboration — led by Facebook — is the norm.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by  rabiem22 

fa-solid fa-hand-paper Learn how you can join our contributor community.