Facebook, which has over 500 million members, just announced “Next Generation Messaging,” an integrated email-chat-communications product. From a numbers perspective, there are 350 million active Facebook Messages users (since not every Facebook member uses Messages), 363 million Hotmail users, 303 million Yahoo Mail users, and 171 million Gmail users, according Charlene Li’s data. If all of the Facebook Message users adopted their new communications product as their primary email service, it would be competitive in size with Hotmail. This is unlikely to happen due to the hurdles in switching email providers.
3 Marketing Lessons
Facebook’s messaging product has three useful marketing lessons.
- Builds buzz. Because Facebook is at the center of the social media ecosystem, its new messaging system has grabbed headlines—even without a live product! Although most of the commentary is based on screenshots, it has stirred up conversations on Twitter and people are signing up. When planning a new product launch, try to maximize the impact of each related marketing effort.
- Is a competitive move. Just as Google ventured beyond search into other online services such as email, Facebook’s announcement is viewed as a competitive strategy to expand its share of consumers’ communications. When assessing your product offering, it’s critical to consider what your competitors are doing.
- Create product in its image. Facebook messaging, like their social network, is focused on a friend’s view of the world. This is useful for socializing but overlooks users’ need for outside information such as bank notices. As described, the product portrays all conversations as one-to-one while writing on people’s Facebook walls is many-to-many messaging. Similarly, Google’s search sensibilities are integrated into Gmail. Marketers should bear in mind that creating a product based on your internal strengths may overlook what’s most useful for consumers.
3 Marketing Implications of Facebook Messaging
The bottom line for marketers is that Facebook’s new version of email will cause disruption and possibly require rethinking how you do business. Here are three factors to consider short term.
- Marketing messages are locked out, at least in the short-term. If you thrive on sending regular messages to your house file, this new wrinkle can translate to lost revenues. The silver lining is that your competitors face the same obstacle. Since consumers are slow to change email addresses, this will probably only affect a portion of Facebook’s user base.
- Targeted business email messages consumers want can’t be delivered. These emailings cover a wide range of user-initiated communications such as customer service, purchase confirmation, and on-going business information such as bank alerts and tickets. For these consumers will need another dedicated email address short term to ensure that this information is received.
- Email tied to company pages and likes haven’t been discussed. For companies and organizations with established Facebook followings, the ability to email followers using the platform would provide another communications option. Stay tuned!
Until we see the actual product, it’s difficult to assess the full marketing impact. What’s clear is that marketers need to start thinking about how to make it easy for prospects and customers to stay connected via the communications method they choose.
Please add your recommendations for marketers in the comments section below.
For more Facebook Messaging information, I recommend the following analyses:
- Mashable: Facebook’s New Messaging System Explained
- Search Engine Land: How The New Facebook Messages & Email System Works
- Charlene Li: Facebook Messages Challenges Traditional Email and Portals
- Blue Sky Factory (ESP): Facebook Messages: Email Marketing Analysis
- Exact Targt (ESP): Facebook’s new Messaging Platform: First Impressions
- Silverpop (ESP): What Facebook’s New Messaging System Means for Marketers
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