As rumours of a ‘Facebook at Work‘ network surfaced earlier this month, this latest announcement, aimed at rivalling the likes of LinkedIn, Yammer and Google Drive, was not unexpected.
Aside from the obvious security concerns that this will raise from businesses and individuals alike, it will also fuel questions from marketers in terms of how Facebook will plan to monetise this new platform.
Facebook’s current advertising revenue model will unlikely be a good fit with many businesses, who will be more willing to pay a software licence fee and maintain the privacy of their data in an ad-free environment, making this platform a potential difficult sell for businesses as a “one size fits all” business tool.
Even Google launched a paid-for service, after realising that businesses were not keen on their ‘free with ads’ platform. It will however, sit very well with individuals, entering the market as a significant rival for LinkedIn, which already operates a successful advertising revenue model.
The Facebook Ads platform has come a long way over the last few years and so it stands to reason that these advancements will be transferred over to the new platform to allow hyper-relevant targeting, such as Custom Audiences. However, where Facebook draws the line between ‘allowing advertisers to target people they have established relationships with on/off Facebook’ and ‘breaching data privacy’ is a question that will be on many people’s lips.
With Facebook at Work having access to data from a professional’s work history right through to highly sensitive business data, through the proposed collaborative work function it could be that the level of audience data available to advertisers is necessarily limited, to avoid Facebook getting into trouble over data privacy.
On the flip side, Facebook could choose to combine the ad platforms of its personal and business social networks, meaning that the audience reach and level of targeting would increase exponentially. If this is the case, advertisers will need to be wary of not alienating potential customers on either platform by bombarding them with irrelevant ads. While users will be able to operate completely separate personal and professional profiles, an overlap in ad targeting is probably quite likely, blurring the lines between work and home life; something which users of both platforms would probably want to avoid.
Whichever road Facebook goes down with its advertising model for Facebook at Work, it’s likely to encounter some challenges before it is 100% right for Facebook, advertisers and the consumer.
Chris Camacho, managing partner, Precision Marketing, Starcom MediaVest