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Facebook’s new corporate service for companies — Workplace by Facebook — launched earlier today (October 10, 2016) in London after nearly two years of testing.

There was a time not so long ago when most employees were blocked from accessing the friendly confines of Facebook while at work. How times have changed. Industry experts and analysts are actually considering Workplace by Facebook as part of a trend in which companies are trying to spur greater employee engagement.

Workplace by Facebook provides employees in the workplace an engagement vehicle that they can use to communicate among themselves: share files, set up events and groups, collaborate on projects and message each other using the popular, and all-too-familiar, social media platform. All features that associations use within their member online communities.

Some may wonder whether Workplace by Facebook is the right platform to build and grow your association’s online social community. Chances are no. Here’s why.

Associations are best served with a branded, exclusive and private experience for their members. Doing so drives home that special feeling of value that warms a member’s heart. Remember, members join your association for that personalized, interactive experience, primarily for networking and professional development.

As noted in a recent article published by ComputerWorld, cons to consider when it comes to liking Workplace by Facebook:

  • Facebook has been known in the past for tracking users, collecting data and selling that information without your knowledge or permission. Will Workplace by Facebook do the same?
  • There’s the possibility, with multiple accounts, that association staff or members may accidentally post something on your association account, and vice versa.
  • While it may be free, for now, there are likely to be ads.
  • While it’s a good communication tool, Workplace by Facebook could also prove to be distracting, as personal accounts will be easily accessible from it.

Most importantly, Facebook does not strengthen your ties with your members and constituents. It redirects their attention away from your association because it doesn’t integrate with your association management software (AMS). And, it won’t allow for easy and seamless transfer of data or provide you analytics to understand member engagement.

Consider also that it may detract from your ability to generate your own valuable advertising revenue. And it will likely impede your ability to grow a social community that extends your association’s brand and meets your member’s expected association community experience.

So, what’s the best alternative to carry out your association’s mission to bring value to your members on a daily, even minute-by-minute, basis? Establish and build up your own private label, online social community that’s tightly integrated with your members’ association experience. It will strengthen ties with your members, give them the community networking they expect and put your association, rather than Facebook, in the driver’s seat.

Besides, what about the value proposition of your association? It’s counter-intuitive for a new member to pay to be a part of your association and then be offered a free, online social community on Facebook. Clearly, it’s in the best interest of your association to produce a branded, exclusive experience that gives your members the value and relevant content that you solely own and control.

Facebook is always looking for more ways to grow. Their intent and motivation is understandable. But, associations will want to carefully consider how much this seemingly simple solution can affect member retention and the future of their association.

Instead, launching a private-label online social community, built into your AMS is the perfect gathering to host your members who desire value and relevancy, and one that’s highly beneficial for your association to grow both your member base and member engagement, and possibly even non-dues revenue.