A small meme has been bouncing around the interwebs after this piece in TechCrunch last month speculated that Facebook might go after the enterprise social networking market.
It's interesting to think about. But really, just how plausible is Facebook as an enterprise social network?
We've Been Here Before
Back in 2008 when we released the first edition of our Enterprise Collaboration & Social Software Report, we actually evaluated Facebook as one of the potential "vendors" to consider. At the time, some enterprises were reviewing Facebook (and LinkedIn) as potential venues for intra-enterprise networking and collaboration.
Recall that Facebook was then considered a young person's network, and some business leaders hoped that Facebook in the enterprise could help them better engage millennials.
The most famous example was a mainframe applications vendor named Serena Software, who launched a small PR campaign about jettisoning its stodgy intranet in favor of using Facebook for internal collaboration. At the time, it caused a stir on the conference circuit, where I recall a few pundits lauding the move as disruptive.
Less well publicized was the result: it fizzled. Serena's German employees rebelled on day one, citing quite reasonably that mandating a public social presence for use in a professional setting constituted a clear violation of privacy norms.
Serena also immediately encountered a major functional problem. Facebook does not have a notion of files. You could share images (and now video), but you can't create folders and other places to arbitrarily share files. In an enterprise setting, you don't want to separate social networking and collaboration. And file-sharing is the mother of all collaboration. The company ultimately found a different platform for file-sharing.
What About Today?
Fast forward to 2014. Grandma has more friends on Facebook than you do, so this conversation is returning with a different slant. If Facebook has "grown up," does that mean it's now finally ready for intra-enterprise networking?
The answer is still no.
Facebook is really just an activity stream -- albeit one with some fancy, if not always trustworthy, filtering algorithms. I think we've learned that activity streams alone doth not a business application make. And the action today is all about social and collaborative applications.
In terms of core functionality, Facebook still comes up short. No file sharing. No separation of personal and professional personas (something Google finally did a few years back). No real content search. And so on.
Facebook is clearly a useful channel (within limits) for enterprises to engage the outside world. In our Marketing Automation & Social Technology Report we evaluate tools that can help you manage your institutional presence across different social networks.