You’ve undoubtedly heard about Facebook’s new Messages platform. This is potentially an exciting change in the evolution of digital communication. Although Facebook has not completely fleshed out all of the current or planned-for capabilities, they have emphasized that this is not a new e-mail browser.
Facebook Messages is made up of 3 components:
1. Seamless Messaging: the ability to carry on a conversation across e-mail, SMS, FB chat or FB messages
2. Conversation History: the ability to index and reference a complete history of conversations you’ve had with your friends
3. Social Inbox: the ability to prioritize and filter messages in your inbox
There are a few things to keep in mind as Facebook rolls out the new Messages product to their users.
Will there be a massive churn of subscribers away from their current e-mail address?
User adoption of Facebook Messages will be interesting to watch. As many will recall, there was a very similar buzz around the announcement of Google’s e-mail client. While Gmail did take market share away from all of the other browsers, Google never took over the market.
We know many people manage their e-mail by creating unique accounts for friends and family, business-related content, newsletters, commercial e-mails, etc. Facebook Messages, as it was announced, appears to be focused on the individual and their personal network, creating a seamless messaging experience that reaches users by web, chat, or SMS. This will make Messages a popular option for people to connect with their friends and family. Some in fact, will be compelled to consolidate all of their personal e-mail to Facebook. General consensus on this is that it will skew towards a younger demographic. E-mail accounts used primarily for commercial messages will probably see a smaller churn rate.
How will deliverability and message placement be affected?
The Social Inbox component is the most interesting to marketers and is very similar to recent changes made by Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! for their respective e-mail clients. At e-Dialog, our focus has always been on message relevance, timeliness, and hygiene as the key elements in reaching your target audience, whether it is in their inbox, mobile device, or social media channels.
The new Messages product delivers messages to one of two general categories: Messages and Other. Initially, messages from Facebook friends will be delivered to the Messages folder, and messages not from friends will be delivered to the Other folder and will remain there unless the user moves them to the Messages box. The Other folder is essentially a bulk message folder, where less prioritized messages will be located. Through Facebook’s privacy settings, users will be able to block e-mail coming from contacts that are not in their social network. An update to your e-mail registration or preference center may be necessary to let recipients with Facebook e-mail addresses know that they must have their preferences set to allow messages from everyone, or your messages will not get through.
Facebook has been very candid that the new message options are meant to improve the user experience, not to make it easier for marketers to message fans. In response to questions posed by ClickZ, Facebook stated there will be no bulk messaging option and no analytics provided to marketers. It’s unclear if liking a page will give messages from that page preferential placement inside a particular folder. As always, the relevance and frequency of your content will dictate where the user puts your messages.
Will rendering of HTML tables & images be supported?
Facebook Messages is particularly focused on text-based messaging so that it can be quickly written, and displayed in IM and SMS, as well as e-mail. While we haven’t seen official documentation stating so, it’s likely that Facebook will support image-rich HTML e-mail, considering its popularity.
What about subject lines?
One thing is clear: subject lines have no place in Facebook Messages. Subject lines from external e-mails will be transformed into the first line of the message, bolded. Which means it will be even more essential to quickly and clearly communicate the value of the message to the recipient. This will be important to cultivate the ongoing relationship with your subscribers.
What are the privacy concerns of a Facebook e-mail address?
It is no secret that Facebook has had its challenges around privacy. Permission vs. privacy is an issue that Facebook needs to embrace to gain the confidence of their user base. Privacy concerns alone could slow the adoption of this product.
To be continued…
We have no doubt that there will be further enhancements and developments to Facebook’s Messages product, and that more information will come out as Facebook continues to unveil more of its strategy.
Stay tuned to www.E-mailPrecisely.com for more information on Facebook’s implications for e-mail marketers as details emerge.
Rick Buck, VP privacy and ISP relations, CIPP