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What Facebook Messages Mean for E-mail Marketers

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By Melissa Campanelli

RISMEDIA, November 23, 2010—(eM+C)—Facebook recently unveiled a messaging service called Messages, which combines traditional e-mail, instant messaging and cell phone text messages into one system, routing messages to whichever service is best for each individual. Facebook Messages is also designed to draw more of users’ time to the social networking site in an effort to build up appeal to advertisers. The new platform is expected to roll out slowly over the next few months.

But what does this all mean for e-mail marketers? For starters, the new Facebook messaging system prioritizes messages based on friend relationships.

“So a brand that’s “liked” will have better placement in users’ ‘Other Messages’ folder,” says David Daniels, CEO of The Relevancy Group, a Spring Lake, N.J.-based e-mail and digital marketing consultancy. “As a result, brands will have to move fast to build Facebook fan pages and recruit fans.”

But the bigger implication, Daniels says, is that consumers will likely switch their e-mail addresses to Facebook.com. As a result, “marketers will have to look at and segment subscribers by behavior to understand which addresses might be churning,” he says.

Marketers should also make it easy for consumers to change their e-mail addresses. “Be sure to include links in e-mail creative that remind consumers to update or change their e-mail addresses,” Daniels advises. “Also, enable your subscribers to change or update their e-mail addresses in their preference centers.”

Other email experts weighed in on what Facebook Messages means for the industry as a whole. Elie Ashery, co-founder and CEO of Gold Lasso. a multichannel marketing technologies provider, says the announcement is proof to the longevity of e-mail. “Email isn’t going away, and marketing is going to be more integrated than ever as a result of this announcement,” he says, offering the following three predictions:

1. The “Like” button will become a universal opt-in. “Rather than requiring individuals to complete forms, the Facebook ‘Like’ button will become a universal opt-in method,” Ashery says. “Because Facebook’s system will automatically detect where users are located—either at a computer, on their mobile device or completely offline—only one method of communication will be required to reach subscribers.”

2. Facebook messaging will force a two-way dialogue. “Businesses reaching out to Facebook users must be aware of the differences between current e-mail clients and the modern messaging system,” Ashery notes. “From now on, messaging experiences of users will gradually morph from formal, lengthy messages to shorter and more personal communications. This highlights the increasing demand for personalized marketing campaigns more than ever.”

3. A decreased need for multichannel solutions. Once Facebook messaging adopts traditional e-mail protocols such as IMAP, marketers will no longer need to create separate messages for each channel, Ashery says. “Currently, marketers trying to reach subscribers through multiple online channels must write, design, code and deliver messages which use multiple delivery protocols,” he says. “Facebook’s technology—and future systems that emerge as an attempt to compete—will detect how and where subscribers want to read messages. The need for single-channel technologies such as SMS-only or e-mail-only messaging vendors will fall by the wayside. Only a single system will be necessary.”

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