Foko, the Instagram for enterprises

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Enterprise photo-sharing app FoKo was launched just a few months ago, but its impact on the internal communications and productivity of global organisations is already being felt.

Real-time interactions, visual imagery, and technical simplicity are allowing workers to get business results faster and more efficiently. The app provides an easy way for employees to share pictures at work in privacy, without worrying about accidentally leaking company information.

I caught up with Co-Founder and Designer Eric Sauve (pictured right), to learn more about the possibilities Foko brings to internal communications.

GL: Eric, could you tell us why did you found Foko? 

ES: Over the last couples of years, the act of sharing photos as a way of communicating on social networks has really established itself as a major factor. People are sharing a lot of pictures, which have become the driver of social networks’ conversations. In fact, photos drive the most engagement compared to texts. More recently people have started to share photos not just on their Facebook, but on newer, faster growing social networks like Instagram and Snapchat.

What we want to do at Foko is to make this phenomenon pervasive in the workplace. Photo sharing inside the enterprise can be as valuable as it is on the external networks. It can help organisations to solve both business and communication problems.

GL: Could you give me some examples of companies that have been using FoKo successfully? 

ES: There are a number of good use cases.

For example, a large global manufacturer Fortune 500 uses FoKo for product development. Their product managers take pictures of new designs, share them with engineers, designers, developers and other managers to bring prototypes forward.

Another example comes from a major retailer with almost 500 stores across the US. They take pictures of their merchandising displays in the stores to show to the rest of the company how their products are laid out. That helps the merchandising teams of the different regions to be more aligned and strategic in their decision-making. If you are in retail, getting the right display can mean having a major impact on how much product you sell.

Another interesting use is in property management services. A large company – also a Fortune 500 on the NYSE – uses FoKo to take pictures of damaged properties. People in the field send these pictures to colleagues whose job it is to address these issues and manage client expectations. Photos are also sent to managers in the legal departments responsible for analysing the property.

These are just a few examples. The uses of FoKo in some respect are still revealing themselves. Every company uses it differently and for different purposes. It will be interesting to see how the attitude towards the app will change the dynamic of internal communications inside other organisations.

Thanks to the real-time dimension of the application you can communicate immediately with colleagues. That provides instantaneous interactions and notifications. The companies that benefit the most from the app are those that need to find solutions very quickly when a picture can give them the answer.

GL: When I first heard about Foko, I remember that it was introduced by the media as the ‘Instagram of the enterprise’. How do you feel about this association? 

ES: At present, the name helps people to understand what Foko does and what we are trying to do. So, I do not feel offended. It is a good analogy, which says what we are trying to bring to the enterprise.

Photo sharing inside the organisation has all the potential that services such as Instagram have on external social networks. Think for example of language barriers. There are many organisational situations when photos can overcome cultural and communication barriers, in a way that sometimes text cannot do. It’s the power of visual communication that unities people globally. And that is of great value for companies.

GL: You mentioned internal communications. How does a service such as Foko support, or change the dynamic of the profession? 

ES: As a fact, social networks are changing the dynamic of internal communications drastically. When it comes to the enterprise, social is bringing what companies have always tried to achieve: collaboration, and breaking down silos. Foko pertains to this area. We want to help employees to communicate better and quicker among each other. And this does not pertain to knowledge workers only, but also for our people in the field. If we only can make it better for them to interact, how many problems could be possibly solved and prevented?

People on the shop floor, or on the move, or working with machinery – who often don’t have a PC or the availability or time to write to management – can finally have a voice and communicate instantaneously with their headquarters. Problems can be solved faster by sending a picture. There is a reason for the popularity of the saying ‘a picture is worth 1000 words’.

Also, we cannot underestimate the value of relationships while doing business. Pictures can make internal communications more human. For example, we see a lot of organisations taking photos of their colleagues, leaders, partners or during company’s events. People then comment, interact, discuss and establish relationships.

Finally, we need to consider the new people entering the workforce. They are mobile savvy, social media savvy, technology savvy. They come to work with their own devices, but also the attitude and mindset towards social, not emails. Companies need to have the tools to interact with them.

GL: What does make Foko different from other photo-sharing apps for the enterprise? 

ES: Firstly, privacy. I do not know of any other service that offers the same level of privacy at the moment. We really make sure that employees share their pictures only with colleagues and targeted people that they choose. Because they sign up by using their company email addresses, people know that only people in their company will see their photos. We are also going to release a new edition with cloud management features for corporations to manage the networks.

Secondly, FoKo is very simple to use. All our clients are large companies that have their own well-established corporate intranets. However, employees use FoKo when in need to share pictures in real-time. They don’t go to the intranet because the app is just much easier to use.

Finally, I would add the power of the hashtag. This is now key for every external social conversation. We want the same to be for internal sharing. The aim is to facilitate employees to follow discussions that are important for work purposes. For example, if there is a global leadership conference that has a hashtag associated with it, everyone inside the company who is not at the conference can go to Foko, look at the #hashtag and see all the photos and comments shared by their colleagues.

GL: What about the future?

ES: As a designer of the interface and application, my constant focus is on making it easier for enterprise people to communicate and drive business. We want to help them achieve better results. And they do. There are so many use cases where sharing photos inside the workplace is of real business value. Many innovative companies have already realised that. From what we are seeing, it is my belief that many more intelligent businesses will join the movement soon. The phenomenon will become pervasive.