SAN FRANCISCO—Despite privacy concerns and other controversies related to its consumer social network, Facebook has gained a significant toehold in the enterprise for Workplace, a secure collaboration and messaging platform that operates separately from the consumer version.
Facebook only started charging for Workplace 16 months ago, following its formal launch in 2016. In the past 12 months, it says companies such as Nestlé, Vodafone, GSK, Telefonica, AstraZeneca, Delta Air Lines, Kering and National Australia Bank have signed on. There are now 150 companies with more than 10,000 paid users of Workplace and several with over 150,000 users.
Bucking the conventional approach, Facebook said it isn’t taking an early adopter, piloting approach; rather, it pitches big companies on mass adoption.
“We go to these companies, and we want them to go wall-to-wall and get everyone using Workplace,” said Karandeep Anand, the head of Workplace at Facebook, during a media event here Feb. 27. “That’s what’s different in what we’re doing because Workplace is really designed for everyone throughout the organization, not just special teams or groups.”
In an interview with eWEEK, Anand said one new customer had planned to make a staggered rollout of Workplace to different parts of the company. “Then they decided to see what would happen if they just flipped the switch and made it available to 100,000 employees all at once. What happened was that everyone started using it without any training or setup.” Anand is also quick to note that Facebook only counts active users as paid users. “You have to use Workplace at least once a month; otherwise, we don’t charge you.”
While there are plenty of other messaging and collaboration platforms out there, Facebook insists it’s not out to beat competitors and says its value is generally additive rather than alternative to what companies are already using such as the popular messaging platform Slack. “We love Slack,” said Anand.
Lesley Young, global director of enterprise sales for Workplace at Facebook, said Facebook has already partnered with many would-be competitors, including her former employer Box, to ensure compatibility.
“We also have a great opportunity as we move forward, connecting businesses to their partners and other businesses, which is something we did at Box,” said Young.
In addition to its low learning curve, Workplace is competitively priced at $3 per user per month. Young said there is lower per-user pricing for big volume customers.
Workplace in Action
The appeal of Workplace is that most users are familiar with using Facebook and Workplace offers a similar environment. Workplace won’t shoot you “Workplace Memories” like consumer Facebook, though it will alert you to things like your “Workversary.”
There are other familiar Facebook features, like the ability to broadcast live video. “When the whole company is connected, you can have things like the CEO delivering a weekly video update to the entire company from anywhere,” Anand said.
Young points to Workplace customers like Valet Living as an example of new use cases. Valet Living is an amenity services company that operates across more than 40 states in the United States. Ninety percent of its staff are part-time workers. “With Workplace, these people were able to connect with each other online for the first time,” said Young.
Valet Living’s sales team is also using Workplace to share tips and manage collegial sales competitions. The company said a one-year analysis showed a 20 percent increase in employee retention since Valet Living started using Workplace.
Analyst Tim Bajarin said crossing the 2 million paid user mark is an important milestone for Facebook and Workplace as the company looks to branch out beyond its core consumer offerings.
“With these numbers, it’s clear that competitors should be taking note of what’s happening because Facebook itself is a huge force to be reckoned with,” Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, told eWEEK. “They have to maintain the isolation from consumer Facebook and keep it highly secure. There can’t be any security questions for Workplace to succeed going forward.”
There is plenty of room for growth. Workplace was created from a Facebook project in the UK, and that’s where the core development team is. Anand, who is in the process of moving to London, said Europe is currently the region with the most Workplace customers, but he expects adoption to pick up in the U.S. as well as elsewhere.
“We’d love to be the first enterprise software to connect a billion users,” said Anand.