Employers lose 650 billion (with a B) big ones each year thanks to the workforce’s obsession with social media. Blocking, banning and bullying hasn’t worked to turn off the spigot, so does it make sense to harness the medium by adding a new Facebook platform to the corporate mix and requiring, or at least sanctioning, its use? Is it possible that things could be different this time? What could possibly go wrong (or right) with this scenario?

FB@Work—a Millennial’s Dream Come True

Last month, Facebook rolled out a soft-launch of Facebook at Work (FB@Work), the enterprise version of its product that targets companies with more than 100 employees. Pilot partners get first crack at the new collaborative suite, which Facebook hopes to propel to the de facto standard for corporate communications.

Facebook is familiar. Most employees will encounter a zero learning curve, and fellow employees are the only friends on the @Work account. Communications are limited to corporate collaborators with a firewall existing between Facebook and FB@Work accounts.

The user experience is nearly identical to Facebook’s except that it is limited in scope, with no apps or ads for now. The news-feed will contain items newsworthy to the enterprise. Collaborators can network, plan projects and events, share news and documents and use FB@Work for social learning, providing education beyond the eLearning classroom and encouraging career development among natural leaders.

FB@Work’s strength is its user profiles. Suppose, for example, you need to locate someone in your company with expert knowledge in a particular area. Facebook’s in-depth profiles allow you to pinpoint individuals with that expertise.

Show Me the Money

The question about monetization looms. How will Facebook finance this venture? Several possibilities exist: a membership fee, monetization via ads, a tiered approach or a free service. Even with a membership fee, this could make sense for some large enterprises—they wouldn’t have to run social media on their intranet, and it would reduce server space needed to archive emails when most communications move to FB@Work.

EYE Spy

The showstopper for some enterprises would be the issue of who owns the data, how it is used, and confidentiality. Until these issues are nailed down in an airtight TOS that can pass an enterprise’s legal department, look for companies who guard their secrets to turn their backs. When FB@Work rolls out in full, it will be available in iOS and Android apps as well as a desktop version.