Why Facebook Messages Won’t Immediately Impact Email Marketers

When Facebook Messages was announced last year, it was rumored to be a “Gmail killer”, a “Yahoo! Killer”, etc. Basically, the conventional wisdom was, as the popular song has it: “It’s the end of the world as we know it”, and Facebook was feeling fine.

Following the announcement, I polled acquaintances, friends and reviewed comments from industry folks about whether or not they would use the new Facebook Messages. The consensus among the people I surveyed varied between “What’s that?” and “No thanks, I already have email and I don’t need another place to check.”

Here we are, roughly four months out from Facebook’s message, and the excitement has died down a little. Maybe more than a little. I’ve been tracking the impact of Facebook email addresses on our major client since the implementation, as email addresses became more and more available, and while there has been growth, it’s been relatively minor.

Those numbers represent the presence of @facebook.com email addresses in two email lists. Yahoo! still holds first place in both databases.

However, numbers only tell one small part of the story. Even Facebook admits that Facebook Messages isn’t a replacement of email. In Facebook’s blog, one of their engineers says:

“To be clear, Messages is not email [my emphasis]. There are no subject lines, no cc, no bcc, and you can send a message by hitting the Enter key. We modeled it more closely to chat and reduced the number of things you need to do to send a message. We wanted to make this more like a conversation.”

Having used Messages since it was possible for me to do so, I can say that I find the lack of the things mentioned above, particularly subject line and the inability to cc: so that I can include people indirectly in my “conversation”, quite annoying. If you send out a message to more than one person, any responses someone sends you get distributed to everyone who got the original message (along with complaints about getting messages not meant for them).

In addition, it is presently impossible to delete a segment of a conversation. You have to wipe out the entire thing. Joel Seligstein, the author of the above blog post, states:

“I’m intensely jealous of the next generation who will have something like Facebook for their whole lives. They will have the conversational history with the people in their lives all the way back to the beginning: From ‘hey nice to meet you’ to ‘do you want to get coffee sometime’ to ‘our kids have soccer practice at 6 pm tonight.’ That’s a really cool idea.”

I beg to differ with Mr. Seligstein. I don’t necessarily want to remember EVERYTHING I said to someone, and I’m guessing I’m not alone in that. In one thread, I could have a deep and meaningful conversation followed by a really stupid comment I’d like to kill and forget because I hit the Enter button before my brain had a chance to edit itself. Only I can’t.

Facebook is the largest, most heavily used social media site on the planet. It would be foolish to assume that they won’t change and adapt as the Messages (and @facebook.com email address) rollout continues and user feedback comes in. In the meantime, what it seems to be that they’ve done is reinvent Twitter with no 140 character limitation. I have to be honest – if I want to use Twitter, that’s where I’ll go.

In the meantime, it would be interesting to know if anyone has seen a major increase in the presence by percentage of ‘facebook.com’ addresses in their mailing lists. Until that happens, Facebook Messages is not going to have half the impact on how email is done as the growing Mobile market. Right now, that’s where the challenges lie for email marketers.

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