Major announcements by Facebook have broad implications not only for Facebook’s users, but for application developers, service providers and agencies. Did the new functionality and features of Messages make or ruin their day?
I used (old fashioned?) email to reach out to some of the people whom marketers rely upon daily for tools and ideas – and here are their informed impressions:
Facebook has turned into the ultimate platform for staying in touch with friends and family, so it’s a natural progression to include an email client for users as well. Microsoft Office Web Apps integration will bring Facebook into the productivity realm and give Facebook more data on users for enhanced ad targeting and a new layer of complexity in its offerings.
Surprisingly, email and all the major email clients out there really haven’t changed all that much in 20 years. While there has been a lot of talk about making the inbox more social, Facebook has a real opportunity to truly reinvent the way we interact and use email. Given Facebook’s expanding depth and breath including Facebook places, Facebook groups and its position as the dominate player for photos and events we can potentially see a game changer here if executed properly.
Email has been the Achilles heel of Facebook, as the limitations of the current message application have hindered its usage. By adding a robust integrated email application, I see users spending even more time on the site. Facebook email could result in adoption of the email channel by millennials who have been much less reliant on email, preferring status updates and SMS as their communication channel of choice. Thus, opening up this segment to email marketers who have had difficulty reaching them.
Facebook has the opportunity to make email, or more importantly personal communication, very relevant again by categorizing communication by closeness – family, company, networks, etc. and combining all forms of online messaging. By creating seamless integration across chat, IM and email and making it easier to have conversations within the Facebook eco-system, Facebook will grow the number of daily interactions among its users well beyond 4 billion. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg stressed at the announcement today that “this is not email,” this is a “messaging system that includes email as a part of it.” Indeed, it’s only the beginning of what can be possible with the “social inbox.” Facebook, plus email, plus mobile and messaging equals a major win for the company and users.
Will this be a first? No. Many systems like Google Wave, Outlook 2007 and others have offered a single “inbox” for all communications (RSS feeds). It does however make it easier for those who prefer a single place for their information to have such. Facebook today seems to be the place that people are used to being in throughout the day to see what is going on in the world and with their friends. So I think it is a good product offering from within the Facebook platform to get more information as you want to see it and in one place. Marketers won’t have to change much in how they interact with their customers just because of this announcement, but should however ensure they have better preference centers to allow people to make a choice and receive their information in the format and system of their choice vs. just a single email inbox.
What does worry me is how will Facebook with its checkered privacy breach past ensure these new data feeds don’t get out into the wrong hands or without permission. Will younger folks know what is right and wrong with how much information they give to such a service? Facebook has a great opportunity to educate users while launching this service to tell people be careful with what you may not want out there in the public. Facebook needs to ensure they give clear notice to those who want to use such a service and what will happen with that data imported into their system. Will it be used to create behavioral advertising? Will it be sold to third parties? Could it possibly be put into your Facebook wall by accident?
Jeff Rosenblum, Founding Partner, Questus
Facebook is following the two key rules of brands trying to succeed in the social sphere. They listen and they test. Users clearly want increased control of their personal communication and Facebook is increasingly providing it. Traditional email is bordering on useless and Facebook is in the unique position to bring true power back to this communication tool, particularly if it integrates cleanly into its other functionality. Now when will they finally fix their awful interface?
The new Facebook messaging product holds a lot of promise. We really like how the seamless consolidation of social communications across email, chat, SMS Facebook messages will give brands more ways to hold organic conversations with fans. At the same time, we recognize that the advanced social screening tools will make it even more important for brands to listen to their community and respond by continually optimizing their communications. The days of interns “managing” your Facebook status updates are officially over.
For social media marketers the B2B space, the new Facebook integrated messaging solution could facilitate client relationship management. Because the messages will remain in the end-users account, the use of this tool is likely to favor sales and fulfillment teams over the company in terms of “owning” the relationship. Since the integrated capabilities are outside the company’s control, monitoring is impeded, and the client-facing professional becomes the brand. This risk has always existed, but if Facebook captures a amount of “communication share” from email, the problem could become acute. At a minimum, B2B companies should develop and implement clear policies around social media-based client communication in order to gain some degree of protection.
More than other messaging systems, Facebook’s new modern messaging system knows who everyone is and how they relate, tying together not only platforms like email, mobile, and chat but also integrating events, birthdays, photos, documents, etc. to create a centralized “history” of communications, regardless of format. As more of people’s interactions with both friends and brands are happening on Facebook, it’ll be exciting to see how the Facebook APIs evolve to include integration with other aspects of the OpenGraph, including the Places, objects, and brands people care about.
Today’s announcement was another powerful sign that more and more of the world is organizing around Facebook. We have been asserting for some time that Facebook is becoming the operating system of the Internet and this news validated that notion. Now more than ever, it is critical for marketers to have a presence on Facebook. Building fans and creating effective strategies to message them is key as Facebook becomes the premier communication channel and will supplant other messaging channels, such as email. As the teen market signals a shift away from traditional email and the need for a lighter weight and simpler way to facilitate conversation, Facebook’s move is impressive.
Facebook understands that one of the fundamental human behaviors is sharing. On the surface, it appears that Facebook is addressing our flawed messaging systems by organizing an array of devices, protocols, and preferences so that messaging becomes meaningful again. There is much more going on here, though. It’s evident that Facebook wants to be our principle tool of daily life for everything that we do online. In order to do this, Facebook will start to innovate in areas where strong sharing behaviors are present but policies restrict the types of things that people want to share. An example of this would be music sharing and the limitations imposed on music sharing by our current copyright system. Tackling our flawed messaging system is a step in the right direction.
The integration of mail into social networking and productivity platforms is inevitable. In fact, it’s already beginning to happen inside the enterprise, on social business platforms. The question is whether Facebook can pull it off on the consumer side. If they do, once again they will be in a position to educate the world on the practical value of a big innovation. That’s what they do best. But it will be interesting to see how the other Web mail providers respond. The Facebook announcement seems timed to preempt what Google is planning in the social networking market. Preempting the competition — they’re pretty good at that, too.
Facebook may not kill off email anytime soon, but it has signaled it understands that communication is key to community (and driving traffic) and will add what is needed to be a full-on portal. This is good news for app developers like Offerpop, as we look at ways to help brands and retailers engage with fans on a regular basis and also create multi-channel experiences that drive conversions. A social inbox may also keep the “kids” hanging around longer, since we all know it’s just a matter of time before they get tired getting friend requests from their moms, and start looking for the next big thing!
Human communication is a definitively social process. Thus, the integration of email and chat communication with Facebook is a natural next step in the evolution of online communication. I think that users will ultimately embrace the new functionality of Facebook’s messaging system, as it is an excellent step towards helping users better manage the large amount of clutter and information flow in their various different inboxes.
- Facebook Social Inbox: Always-On Messaging With People You Care About (allfacebook.com)
- New Technology Behind 20 Billion Daily Facebook Messages (allfacebook.com)
- 18 Social Media Insiders React to New Facebook Groups, Privacy (socialtimes.com)