(Update: Later, Facebook launched a product with the name Workplace.)


 

Get ready for an early 2015 during which you’ll be hearing lots about a new product called “Facebook for Work.” (Not to be confused with Facebook for Business, the name of their current advertising management platform.)

Facebook for Work is reported to be a collaborative workspace tool for use within a corporate or organizational environment (behind a firewall). Envying enterprise products like Microsoft’s Yammer, Salesforce.com’s Chatter, Google Apps for Work and the current “it” product called Slack, Facebook wants to enter the enterprise collaboration marketplace.

Why shouldn’t they? Facebook created what many people under the age of 25 believe is the first and only social network. (Despite two decades of forums preceding its creation.)

If you believe the media reports, Facebook is how Millennials connect and communicate with friends (Facebook calls almost all connections “friends”). Also, Facebook has lots of corporate and small business clients who buy ads on their site — hundreds of millions of dollars in ads, in fact.

However, I believe that if they choose to use the brand “Facebook for Work” for this new product, the name will likely doom the product, as “Facebook” and “Work” have opposite meanings for a large chunk of the business world.

Here’s what I mean:

The brand Facebook is perceived by many as a distraction from work, not a tool for work.

It would make sense to have a brand called “Facebook for Work” if Facebook hadn’t spent the past decade creating the ultimate “distraction from work.” No matter how hard they will try to position a behind the firewall Facebook as a “tool for work,” the brand Facebook is perceived as the opposite of work. The company learned this when corporate spam filters blocked a significant portion of email flow when the  company’s tried to introduce an email product using the domain name Facebook.com.

As outlined in the current Idea Email from Hammock Inc., “to succeed as a business-to-business brand or product, the first challenge a B-to-B marketer faces is to convince business customers its products and supporting content are tools for work, not diversions from it.”

This will be the reason the brand Facebook for Work won’t work: The phrase “Facebook for Work” is an oxymoron in the minds of too many executives and small business managers who make the final decisions on operations, technology and security. For many of these decision makers, Facebook for Work sounds like a product called “Frat Party for Work.”

What Facebook Can Do

Note that I haven’t suggested the rumored product won’t work. It’s the brand that won’t.

No doubt this is the reason that Facebook has reportedly said its new product will be separate from the consumer version of Facebook.

Facebook’s tool set can be adapted for use by companies. No doubt, it already is for some small businesses and for project management in even large corporate environments. But the users are hacking a consumer product, filled with consumer-sounding features.

But by using a completely different brand and set of metaphors can help Facebook break into the corporate (enterprise) and small business marketplace for collaborative software. The marketplace is still at a tire-kicking phase and no product has emerged as the clear front runner, although Skype is clearly dominant in the video conferencing facet of the space. And Facebook is right, they’ve created a platform on which an entire generation communicates.

Bottomline

Facebook has everything it takes to win this coming battle — except the right brand and work-oriented metaphors. It must be perceived as a tool for work, not a distraction from it, if it is going to win behind the firewall.