Facebook Messages - Email Has Nothing to Fear. Yet.

November 24th, 2010

Facebook Messages vs EmailI have been using the new Facebook messages for a few
days and while it is an interesting approach to integrated messaging, it doesn't pose a credible threat to email. To be fair, Facebook never positioned this upgrade as an "email killer"-the tech press prescribed that moniker-but there has been much discussion as to whether the Facebook devotees would abandon email and conduct all of their conversations within the Facebook ecosystem. Perhaps. There has also been discussion, mostly by opportunistic bloggers and link baiters, as to whether Facebook Messages is a viable channel for B2B communications.  I don't think so. Let's take a look at how these two different groups of people may use Facebook Messages and where the system excels and where it falls short.

Facebook Devotees

For Facebook users who are already accustomed to communicating with friends exclusively, or nearly exclusively, on Facebook, the new system will be a welcome upgrade. It allows you to add a facebook.com email address to your account (using your public username) and integrates SMS messaging to your inbox. You communicate with friends, not with phone numbers, email addresses or Facebook accounts. You select the friend you want to talk to and the system delivers the message the way the other user prefers. Brilliant.

Not so brilliant is the inability to add non facebook.com email addresses. You can forward your mail, but that isn't an elegant solution. And while you can receive messages on your smartphone using a Facebook application or via text message, Facebook only consolidates SMS messages that are sent through the system. There is no way to integrate an SMS that is sent directly to a phone number.

Pros:

  • Consolidates all your conversations with each friend
  • Fast, simple, informal
  • SMS, email and Facebook messages all in one inbox
  • Messages delivered the way each recipient prefers

Cons: 

  • Requires the user to initiate the conversation within Facebook
  • No support for third party email addresses
  • SMS messages not sent through Facebook are not captured

Business Professionals and Email Power Users

During the Messages announcement, Facebook made it clear that they were not trying to replace email. Rather, they were trying to provide a solution to users who utilize social media as a primary form of communication and want to consolidate their communication streams into a single location. To that end, and with the caveats mentioned above, Facebook Messages is successful. For business professionals and email power users, however, Facebook Messages doesn't offer a compelling use case. There is no integration with corporate email accounts, no separate inboxes for Facebook pages and Facebook users, and no method to save or archive the messages offsite. There are also no enterprise level security features and no company worth their balance sheet is going to communicate sensitive information with clients across Facebook's servers. Clearly, this is a system designed for friends to conduct casual, informal conversations. It is designed for B2B communications. 

However, for businesses that promote themselves on Facebook with a unique profile page for their organization, there may be a real benefit to communicating with customers using Facebook Messages. If your customers are following your updates on Facebook to track special offers or provide reviews of your products and services, you can utilize Facebook Messages to communicate exclusive special offers, share information with vendors or partners or provide updates that you don't otherwise want to share with the general public.

Pros:

  • Fast, simple, informal
  • B2C potential

Cons: 

  • Requires the user to initiate the conversation within Facebook
  • No support for corporate email
  • No separate inboxes for Pages admins and Pages 
  • No archival or export functionality
  • Privacy and security concerns
Posted by Sermon Access | Topic: Social Networking

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