Facebook At Work: will executive search firms use it like LinkedIn?

Media recruiting: Facebook logoWorkers rejoice! The days of firms barring employees from looking at social networking websites could be at an end. Why? ‘Cause Facebook is aiming to help everyone do their jobs just that little bit better…

In-house recruitment professionals should be especially excited by news that Facebook has launched a new social network specifically for office communications – it’s called Facebook At Work.

The speculative amongst you may care to think that sounds a bit like Facebook making inroads into LinkedIn’s territory, albeit in a different way – we’ll come to that…

So far just a handful of companies have be asked to join an extended trial of Facebook At Work, but the service is expected to be rolled out to the wider business community in the coming months of 2015.

Like its big sister site, Facebook At Work lets users create an account, post content, and interact. But instead of doing that with friends, it’s with co-workers.

People who hold a personal Facebook account will be able to link it to their At Work account by using the same user-name and password for both.

Facebook says this will make it easy to switch between the two. And to make sure personal updates and embarrassing private photos don’t get shared with colleagues, Facebook will keep all data from the two accounts independent of each other.

The benefits of Facebook At Work for internal comms and recruitment departments seem immediate, particularly for maintaining and developing new ideas, encouraging best practice, and building a common culture amongst staff.

Businesses operating in several countries – or at several sites in the same country – may even use the service to improve the way colleagues, who previously communicated rarely, stay in-touch; helping them to develop closer working relationships and even collaborate over documents.

Employees can ‘friend’ colleagues and get their updates in a newsfeed, says the FT, and popular posts could be spread virally in a company via newsfeeds.

As ‘Friending’ might not always be appropriate with someone more senior in the company, staff could be encouraged to ‘follow’ members of their executive team, so they can receive updates without having to be in the kind of reciprocal relationship ‘friending’ would bring.

To make At Work appealing to those businesses worried about the productivity of their employees, Facebook will ensure managers of a firm’s Facebook At Work profile will be able to access all shared material, just as they might access an employee’s work email and other files.

For recruiters and executive search specialists, a further compelling element is the ability to have Facebook At Work help them understand staff better, to know their areas of interest, and establish their specific areas of expertise; it could also help unearth the real stars of the business, the rough gems that may have previously been overlooked, and help reshape how internal teams operate.

So far, so different from LinkedIn.

In many ways, there could be a certain simpatico between the two sites as far as recruiters are concerned. They could use Facebook At Work to source internal candidates for jobs in the way they already use LinkedIn to source and follow external candidates.

But what if Google publically indexes Facebook At Work profiles in the same way it indexes LinkedIn profiles? Then things become interesting. And what if Facebook decides it likes the look of all those job postings that LinkedIn features? Then things could get really interesting.

Facebook previously explained how development of its At Work network came about because its own employees had quite naturally gravitated away from email to the social network for their internal communications.

Well, that’s a nice story, and perhaps an indication of how Facebook would like businesses to use its new service, but somewhere in planning for its new site Facebook may well have also had half an eye on the phenomenal success of LinkedIn and its dominance of online professional networks.

LinkedIn’s full year results, published last week, highlighted how important recruitment is to the service.

Revenue from its Talent Solutions product [essentially its job ads] was £241m in the fourth quarter, accounting for 57 per cent of overall revenue.

But what might be a threat to LinkedIn can only be good for the rest of us. The signs are recruiters may benefit from increased competition in the professional networking market.

Ariel Eckstein, LinkedIn’s managing director in Europe, said recently his network would seek to maintain competitive advantage through continued product development.

“We will continue to innovate the way we always have,” Eckstein told Recruiter magazine. “That has made us the world’s most popular professional network.

“We have announced the launch of a feature in our recruitment product where you can look at the fit of a particular candidate,” he added.

“Our punch line is the jobs that are on LinkedIn. There are almost 3m jobs on LinkedIn, up from 300,000 last year.”

It’s not yet known how Facebook At Work will make revenue. It could be that a structured subscription service – not unlike LinkedIn’s – might be the way it goes. Or it could even use the display ads model already used across its main site. Or could classified job ads get a look in? It’s tempting to think Facebook would like some of those 3m job listings, but I wonder how upset bosses would get if ads for jobs with other companies started to pop up in their employees’ newsfeeds?

In the end, that might be a deciding factor.