As you might be aware, Facebook launched a new email platform this week. Businesses are leveraging Facebook more and more these days so the first question to come to my mind was around what the implications for business might be. There’s no doubt that businesses can derive real business value from social media but it’s a relatively new phenomena and the strategies are evolving along with the platforms themselves. So is Facebook email a game changer for business? I’m not convinced that it is.
I have read several predictions that claim that Facebook email will become a business game changer. However, these prognosticators seem to focus on establishing that social media is going to be a game changer for business as opposed to making a good case for how Facebook email specifically will be relevant to business. In his latest blog entry titled “Facebook: Why businesses need to use it – and its new email client”, Forbes’ Adam Hartung makes sensational claims that because of the messaging capabilities provided by social media, “businesses can soon stop buying and handing out laptops” and that “smart businesses will quit operating servers for communications.”
Rest assured that businesses will not stop providing laptops to their employees or running internal messaging systems anytime soon; at least not in the enterprise. Ensuring users run on standardized operating system images will continue to require enterprises to provide laptops to employees. These standardized images provide all the requisite software for employees to do their jobs and all the necessary controls required to ensure IT compliance.
There are trends such as cloud computing and virtualization that could allow enterprises to wean themselves from issuing company laptops and running internal communications servers. However, social networks will not influence that trend in the enterprise. Technologies like virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) provide huge advantages in security, management, and portability but they still have some maturing to do. When these technologies work out the kinks they might break enterprises free from issuing company laptops, not social networks.
Another big obstacle to business adoption of Facebook as a messing platform is privacy. Less than a month ago two members of Congress sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg seeking information on how some of its most popular applications (e.g. FarmVille, etc) send users’ personal information to spammers. Businesses have a hard time securing data within their own networks so it seems very unlikely they’d subject themselves to additional risk by adopting a messaging platform that has documented inquiries from the US Government on subject of privacy.
Facebook is and will always be a consumer platform that has the ancillary benefit of providing a legitimate channel for businesses to improve brand image and increase awareness. Facebook email is very interesting from a consumer perspective but for business there aren’t enough reasons why and too many reasons why not.