Facebook at Work launching Oct. 10

Enterprise-focused social tool will help workers stay connected

It may finally be OK to use Facebook while you're at work.

Well, it still may not be OK to post pictures from last night's party or your cat annoyingly waking up your spouse, but you may be using it to connect with your project team or your boss while she's on the road.

After spending a few years working on a social network for the enterprise, Facebook will launch Facebook at Work on Oct. 10.

The company has sent out invitations for a launch event in London.

The new enterprise effort, which is both a mobile app and a desktop service, went into a pilot test around January 2015.

The new service is designed to help co-workers stay connected and share information, much like they do with friends and family on the original Facebook.

Facebook at Work reportedly will let users set up events, collaborate on projects, message each other and set up groups.

"I've always said that Facebook has to diversify and this is one of their efforts to penetrate the enterprise," said Brian Blau, a Gartner analyst. "The enterprise has been interested in social tools in as much as they can help with explicit work issues, such as communications and project facilitation, but so far the adoption of pure-play social communications in the enterprise hasn't yet reached maturity."

While analysts might not be sure exactly what Facebook at Work will exactly look like, they generally agree that moving to the enterprise may be more difficult than Facebook anticipates.

Business executives, for example, will want to know that there is no link between the presumably more secure and enterprise-facing network and the original, purely social Facebook. So, for example, posts in one place will not show up in the other.

Executives also will want to be sure that a new service will benefit the business and not just be another place for workers to waste their time.

"One common mistake that consumer-facing companies make is thinking the step to the enterprise market is both easy and lucrative," said Rob Enderle, an analyst with The Enderle Group. "Collaborative products can represent more risk for IT than they do benefit... [Enterprises] typically view social networks as time sucks and are appalled at how much productivity has dropped because of social networks and other worker distractions."

Enderle added that for Facebook at Work to be successful, it will have to be seen as more of a collaboration tool than just a communication tool.

Jeff Kagan, an independent industry analyst, said it may be a challenge but it's a good move for Facebook to make and a good stretch of its original business.

"Facebook is always looking for more ways to grow," he added. "They are very successful, but only on the consumer side. They now want to see that same level of growth in a new market. This is a new idea. There are no guarantees."

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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