When Will Facebook Be Ready for Business?

For awhile we’ve been pushing the idea of Facebook evolving to support business social networking alongside the “social” social networking. But in order for that to work, the site needs to find a way to shed its image as a beacon of college hooliganism — Facebook is a place to post party pictures, not product pitches. But even so, the appeal of leveraging Facebook’s social graph for business is too good to pass up. As we’ve noted in the past, there are already huge business networks on Facebook — 30,000 Microsoft employees, 8,500 Googlers, etc. Those relationships are ripe for exploiting for business networking, but there is a prevailing feeling that that’s not what Facebook is for.

Even though the stigma that Facebook is not suitable for anything serious exists, there are indications that people want that to change. Last July we published list of our picks for the top 10 Facebook apps for work and despite the post fairing poorly on social news sites like Digg, it did very well and generated a good deal of discussion. Other “serious” apps, like Causes, have done extremely well on Facebook and attracted millions of users. But still, it is hard to get anyone to get any real work done on Facebook.

Today we were emailed about a new GTD app on Facebook called Get Stuff Done. It’s a solid group networking and task management tool, and in just a few days has over 200 users — but prospects for long term success are bleak. Two other project management apps that we wrote about in Facebook last November, Projects and MyOffice, barely register on the platform these days. They have just 1,000 and 3,800 users respectively according to Adomonics.

Clearly, there is a potential for Facebook to be a useful productivity tool — it is one of the web’s best address books, and plays host to some of the richest social data, which could be used for very worthwhile purposes. But it has yet to shed its “fun” image. The top 40 apps on the Facebook platform are all of the “play” variety. And of course, Facebook doesn’t want to completely shed its college clothing, it parlayed that core “fun” networking image into a $15 billion valuation.

About 5 months ago Stowe Boyd seemed to predict that in 6 months Facebook would be a viable competitor to LinkedIn. Since that time Facebook has taken some steps that clearly make the site better suited for business networking (granular privacy controls, friend groups, friend suggestions, etc.), but as we approach that half year threshold the “not for work” image remains.

A couple of days ago Nick O’Neill wondered if productivity apps would ever find a place on Facebook. It is hard to answer that question with a flat out no, because the opportunity is just too great. As Facebook’s core audience of early college users grow older and enter the work force, if the company can retain their attention, then certainly Facebook could be a worthy platform for business networking. But evidence points to that being doubtful to happen any time soon.

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