This week, Facebook launched an improved messaging service that doubles as an email client. Facebook modeled the new “social inbox” like a chat conversation between two users rather than emails with subject lines, cc, or bcc lines. In doing so, Facebook made it easier for users to communicate with one another, even if some prefer email or SMS texts, because all messages between two people become part of a continuous conversation, regardless of the method of communication. As a result, messages sent via SMS text, email, and Facebook’s messenger are consolidated into a conversation between two users.
One major problem with traditional email is spam. Facebook’s solution is integrated with users’ privacy settings. A user can restrict messages to friends-only—so spam/non-friend emails are routed automatically to a separate folder. The user then has the ability to allow messages from that source if desired or bounce the email altogether. This approach by Facebook to limit spam is ultimately more effective, though not as useful as Gmail’s Priority Inbox.
One of the strengths of Gmail is its conversation threading. Similarly, messages between Facebook users become a continuous conversation. As Facebook puts it, historically people kept boxes of letters between two people for posterity. Now, all message exchanges between two people are saved in a single Facebook conversation.
Implications for Advertisers
Facebook’s new messaging service poses a new set of challenges and opportunities for advertisers. Younger audiences are already increasingly turning to online messaging and SMS texts to communicate rather than email. Centralizing communication within Facebook may accelerate that trend, and apps are already being developed to facilitate usage on iPhone and Android devices. As a result, advertisers with younger-skewing customer bases will likely benefit from incorporating a Facebook messaging strategy into their overall social media strategy. Time spent on Facebook’s site could increase as more users consolidate communication within Facebook—so current social media advertisers could reap immediate benefit. Also, while most users will maintain email separate from Facebook, eCRM and email marketers will need to monitor the adoption of Facebook’s service as broad adoption may negatively affect email’s ROI and ability to reach the intended audience.