Facebook At Work Will Quickly Change Enterprise Social

It may not yet be generally available, but Facebook at Work is a quickly evolving solution that will change how enterprises think about and conduct social interactions. It will also dramatically change, if not eliminate, the single-person role of Community Manager.
Carrie Basham Young, an experienced and respected social business strategist, published a series of blog posts on Facebook at Work last week. Her main thesis across these posts was that Facebook is playing a long game in which the line between social interaction in people’s personal lives and at work becomes blurred or disappears altogether. Facebook is betting that it can change enterprise social to more closely resemble the way that people interact outside of work, on Facebook.
Young made many other astute observations in the posts, including,

  • Facebook controls the message with respect to its product and the social networking industry in mainstream media
  • Adoption (logging in for the first time) does not equal engagement (ongoing, purposeful use)
  • Facebook at Work is “incredibly easy” to use and may nearly eliminate the need for user training
  • Facebook at Work’s extreme end-user focus may cause problems for enterprises, and IT staff at big companies will have a negative view of Facebook at Work until it incorporates enterprise-grade identity management, security and information lifecycle management functionality
  • Facebook has the power to change the entire conversation, user expectations and their behavior without input from currently active community managers

Changing Nature of Work and Organizations

The present (and future) trend in the workplace is toward fewer managers in less hierarchical organizational structures. However, eliminating roles that command others’ work does not equate with getting rid of those who guide and coordinate work. The need for people who can design, facilitate and monitor people interactions within business networks will only increase as authority, responsibility and accountability are decentralized across the employee base of an organization.
If Young’s assessment of the irreplaceable contributions of community managers is correct, then Facebook’s intention to minimize or eliminate them may be a fatal mistake. Instead, Facebook at Work should give all employees access to the tools that Young cites as necessary for successful community management. By doing so, Facebook would accelerate the existing trend of democratizing authority and distributing work ownership. Everyone would be responsible for contributing to the management of communities in which they are members, and stewardship of them would shift contextually.
This vision is not unprecedented. Over the last two decades, Knowledge Management (KM) has moved away from being a top-down activity started and executed by an individual situated fairly high in a company’s organizational chart. Instead, the notion of Personal KM has gained favor, making all employees responsible for creating, capturing, sharing and using knowledge within their company.
It is possible that day-to-day community management will move in the same direction and become a distributed responsibility and activity. Young clearly acknowledged this when she wrote,

“Facebook will maintain a pure focus on viral adoption, resulting in an industry-wide slow shift away from the concept of managed communities and toward the concept of ad-hoc, self-driven collaboration as a new normal employee behavior”

I disagree with Young’s interpretation of Facebook’s goal for Facebook at Work though. I think Facebook seeks to de-emphasize or eliminate community managers, but not community management. It appears that Facebook at Work has been designed for distributed, bottom-up community coordination, rather than top-down, imposed management. (I sincerely hope that Facebook at Work does not intend to have communities ruled by algorithms that decide which topics and interactions are given preference in an employee’s activity stream.) While this will be unappealing to existing community managers, Facebook’s vision for more self-governed collaboration is consistent with the larger trends that are distributing and democratizing work coordination in increasingly flat, networked organizational structures.

Enterprise Social Will Change Sooner Rather Than Later

Young is right that Facebook at Work will upset the status quo in enterprise social and community management, but I think her timeline is too long. This change is likely to happen in 3 years or less, rather than the 5-10 years she predicts.
It will be faster because Facebook can learn from other vendors in adjacent enterprise software market segments, most notably Box and Dropbox in the Enterprise File Sync and Sharing space. Like Facebook, both of those companies began as consumer-oriented services that emphasized user experience over other considerations, including breadth and depth of functionality. Box has since built an offering that meets many of the security, privacy, administration and integration requirements of business customers.
Dropbox has also undertaken that journey, although it did not begin it until well after Box started. That is an advantage in some ways. Dropbox is moving down the learning curve quickly because it has watched Box and learned from its strategic decisions taken and tactical moves made to effect the consumer-to-enterprise shift.
Facebook will do the same, gaining insight from both Box and Dropbox. This will allow Facebook at Work to become enterprise-ready in a fraction of the time that most expect. Watch for Facebook to gradually expand beta access to Facebook at Work over the coming months, then make a version that meets most enterprise requirements generally available by the end of 2016.

How I became my cat’s social media manager, and found a community in the process

I last made an internet friend in middle school, when so few people used AIM that my real-life friends and I traded contact lists and began chatting strangers. One time a boy asked for my number and called my house. I panicked a few seconds in and hung up. We never spoke again.

But I have always been fascinated by online communities, especially connections that begin behind anonymous handles and then morph into real world friendships. From time to time, group pictures from meetups float to the front page of Reddit — person after person who felt strongly enough about their online world to bring it into reality.

I had never felt that intense of a connection with the people I encountered online.

That general stranger-danger opinion of online contacts feels like it has started to lift in recent years with the proliferation of online dating sites. My friends talk openly about meeting people on Tinder and OK Cupid. Moving from the virtual to the real world is becoming more structured, more accepted. But I had yet to find a nook or cranny where I found myself at home.

It turned out that my nook was filled with cats. Lots and lots of cats.

Enter a cat

Eight months ago I adopted a cat — a fluffy orange tom I named Hobbes after a dear childhood favorite.

Hobbes. I still think he's cute.

Hobbes. I still think he’s cute.

A prolific photographer, I quickly had more photos of my precious fur-baby than I was willing to reveal to my Facebook friends. I started an Instagram account dedicated to Hobbes and shared it with the friends who would understand what I thought was my special brand of crazy cat lady. They tolerated me internet gushing over my cat, and even rewarded it with showers of likes.

At the time, I knew of a few Instagram-famous cats and dogs. There was @nala_cat, who has more followers on the platform than world-famous Lil Bub and Grumpy Cat combined. I also loved @marutaro the shiba inu and @hello_oskar, a handsome tuxedo who explores the California coast on a leash. I chuckled to myself as I followed them. Cats following cats.

But then something odd happened: Unfamiliar cats started following Hobbes’ account. I followed back, and followed more. Within a day, Hobbes had more followers than my personal Instagram account. And nearly all of them were cats.

Down the rabbit hole

In these early days, running the account was a small investment that brought immediate return. I could post a picture of Hobbes sitting on the bed and ask, “Which movie should we watch today?” and within minutes have dozens of likes and comments. Hobbes alternated between sassy quips directed at his “humans” and quotes from “Calvin and Hobbes.” For a while I paired photos with lines from Thomas Hobbes, the philosopher, but it turns out no one wants to hear depressing musings on life from a cat.

https://instagram.com/p/qu7IJRuqZX/?modal=true

Over time, I noticed the same people (or cats) commenting on my pictures over and over again. I started commenting back. I knew their cats’ names and “voice,” and started looking forward to seeing what certain accounts posted each day. My Instagram stream turned into a medley of cats satirizing current events, celebrating #caturday and making cutesy jokes. It felt a lot like Twitter, except everyone was a cat.

As the months wore on, my focus shifted from entertaining my friends to pleasing Instagram’s universe of cats. My content became more sophisticated. Some friends and I collaborated on a 10-panel noir piece and this weekend I am running “House of Cards” quotes on top of cat videos. I whittled the number of pictures I posted a day down to two, a number I gleaned from looking at the most successful cat accounts.

https://instagram.com/p/zI1eZCOqXM/?modal=true

As I got deeper into cat Instagram, I joined its rituals. I entered photo contests to get Hobbes featured on accounts with more followers. Messages of “adopt, don’t shop” and “ban declawing” washed over me. I mailed cats handmade bow ties, and they sent me Christmas cards. I found myself using emoji — lots and lots of emoji.

Today, Hobbes’ Instagram account hovers at around 4,500 followers. Every picture I post gets 300 to 400 likes and, depending on the caption, a dozen or so comments. Among the thousands of cat accounts on the site, it’s a modest number. But it’s enough to give me that constant drip of reward social media sites are geared to provide. I post something, and people listen and respond.

Accidental cat people

About a month ago, I did grow tired of upkeeping Hobbes’ account. Writing captions, even if they are dumb cat jokes, takes a surprising amount of energy. I handed the reins over to my boyfriend for about a week and went back to curating my personal Instagram. It was nice for a day or so, and then I missed cat Instagram. I found myself explaining running jokes to my boyfriend and feeling personally responsible for ensuring Hobbes responded. I missed my friends.

The accidental-cat social media manager story is a common one. No one is singularly a cat person, the way a gamer can be a gamer or an athlete an athlete. In the real world, everyone has other identities. Charlene Dahilig, the Sacramento, California-based human behind the beloved @omgdeedee Instagram, said her account was originally private for more than a year.

“I was mostly posting pics of Gary, even at that time,” Dahilig said. “My sister told me that he could be a star and that I should go public, so I did. I wasn’t sure if it was just me who thought he was so unique, though.”

Gary, a white cat with a beard-like black splotch on his chin and mustard-yellow eyes, is not what you would call a classically beautiful feline. Dahilig’s captions present him as a cantankerous and vain, but also lovable, house panther who bosses his “intern” Margo the cat around. It is one of the best known accounts on cat Instagram.

Ruth White, a Hollywood, California, human who has adopted three squish-face Persians from shelters over the last 10 years, said her boyfriend convinced her to start her Instagram account, @squish_n_duffy.

“I didn’t even want to do Instagram. I thought it was so dumb,” White said. “And here I am, 23,000 followers later, organizing Instagreets.”

Friends, in good times and bad

White and a group of Instagram friends get together every few months to talk life and their pets. Many bring their cats.

“I think people think cat people are supposedly introverted and the cats stay at home. There’s this idea that you can’t get a bunch of cats together or mayhem will ensue,” White said. “When you get with a group of people and you all have one thing in common, even if you’re shy or reserved, with your love of cats you can’t help but just engage.”

White recently lost Squish, her first cat. When she adopted Squish 10 years ago, the then-1-year-old cat was so sick White was afraid to name her. Her temporary name of “the squish-faced cat” became permanent.

After Squish died, my Instagram feed filled up with tributes to the tortoiseshell Persian. Everyone had messages of condolences and support.

“To have this community around me that cared so much about me, and checked in on me, and sent me notes, flowers, and just did the most thoughtful things. …” White trailed off. “I was overwhelmed by their kindness. In some ways I’m a stranger, except for that we’re almost always in each other’s daily lives.”

Dahilig said the community support is her favorite part of Instagram. If a cat needs an expensive medical procedure, other people often step in and crowdfund it.

“The response to cats in need and the response when someone loses a pet is truly overwhelming,” Dahilig said. “People know what you’re going through, and I think it helps people through their grieving.”

Hobbes and a donut.

Hobbes and a donut.

If you had asked me a year ago to comment on cat pictures 20 times a day, I would have laughed. But I get it now. Behind every cat, there is a person you follow for their humor, their photography skills, their whatever, the same way you would anywhere else on the web. It’s just that here, in my corner of the internet, everyone happens to like cats.

I haven’t yet made the leap to meeting an Instagram friend in real life. But I wouldn’t mind doing it. This time, I won’t hang up.

RebelMouse wants to help media companies own their social graph

After leaving the Huffington Post, former CTO Paul Berry built a social-content management platform called RebelMouse to help media make their content more viral — and now RebelMouse wants to help them build their own niche communities as well

A new season of Community starts March 17 on Yahoo

Cult TV comedy Community is returning this March — on 3/17, to be precise — but not on NBC. Instead, Yahoo is going to release the show exclusively on its Yahoo Screen website, staring with two new episodes on March 17th. Following the Saturday release, fans are going to get one new episode every Tuesday. Here’s the cast of the show officially announcing the premiere date:

[protected-iframe id=”615f363a983138e360490cc78699095b-14960843-721418″ info=”https://screen.yahoo.com/community-cast-announces-season-6-162500604.html?format=embed” width=”640″ height=”360″ frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no”]

NBC had canceled Community in April due to declining ratings after five seasons. At the time, there were speculations that Hulu might jump in to save the show, and producer Dan Harmon confirmed during a Television Critics Association event in Los Angeles Tuesday that Yahoo was indeed in the running (hat tip to Variety’s Debra Birnbaum).

Community is just the latest cancelled TV show to be revived online; Netflix brought Arrested Development as well as The Killing back from the dead. However, it’s a big get for Yahoo that could potentially introduce lots of new eyeballs to Yahoo Screen.

Correction: A previous version of this post erroneously stated that the show would start in January. The post was updated at 10:55am with the actual launch date.

Lyft distances itself from the fist bump

In an email sent to customers this morning, the ridesharing company addressed two of Lyft’s most infamous quirks: The fist bump and front-seat ride.

Startups are flocking to hire community builders. Why now?

Communities have existed on the web since its earliest days, with tech employees tasked with cultivating them. Until recently, however, community building wasn’t a profession in its own right. That’s starting to change.