Facebook Messages: Inbox Savior or Terror?

Facebook’s formal announcement of its long rumored and widely discussed messaging platform – dubbed Project Titan internally and Gmail killer by many externally – finally occurred. Called Messages, it deserves attention because of Facebook’s increasing power in the digital world.

Here is how Facebook is framing this new communications platform (with bolded emphasis from me):

“You decide how you want to talk to your friends: via SMS, chat, email or Messages. They will receive your message through whatever medium or device is convenient for them, and you can both have a conversation in real time. You shouldn’t have to remember who prefers IM over email or worry about which technology to use. Simply choose their name and type a message.

We are also providing an @facebook.com email address to every person on Facebook who wants one. Now people can share with friends over email, whether they’re on Facebook or not. To be clear, Messages is not email. 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.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said e-mail is “too slow” and formal, and is often hurt by subject lines, greetings, and closings. He says Messages is built for conversations. It may be great for communicating with your college buddies but maybe not so much for brands and customers (or potential ones). The devil is in the details, so time will tell.

While this creates many more marketing opportunities, it is clear that Facebook’s goal “is not to destroy email as we know it,” as Zuckerberg said. “People will be able to have facebook.com email addresses, but this is not email. This is not an email killer. This is a messaging system that includes email.”

Industry expert Mark Brownlow eloquently stated, “The incorporation of email in the new system is implicit recognition of the continuing value and longevity of the channel.” Instead of a socially infused nail in the coffin, e-mail is thriving as the digital communication hub and is poised for continued growth and success.

However, Facebook has over 500 million users, so this will have an impact on digital communication. Whether consumers need or want another inbox is a completely different question. I believe many active Facebook users will embrace this and use this as a communication silo – one for communication (note – not just e-mail) with their friends and some of their favorite brands. I expect people will continue to use their primary e-mail addresses, usually an existing work and personal account, for their permission-based e-mails, whether they are newsletters, promotions, or transactional e-mails.

One industry pundit is expecting a 10 percent adoption rate among the Facebook user base. That means approximately 50 million users may be adding a Facebook.com e-mail address. How many new subscribers or existing ones that enter your e-mail database with a Facebook.com e-mail address remains an important question.

It will likely be several months before we see the full impact of Facebook Messages on the inbox, but there are certainly some steps you can take in the meantime to ensure your e-mail program is not negatively affected.

Next time, we’ll examine those considerations for the early stages of this roll out. If you have any insights on Messages or if you’ve already used it, I would love to hear your feedback.

Related reading

Flat business devices communication with cloud services isolated on the light blue background.
Vector illustration with a magnifying glass focusing on a pie chart, a graph line trending upwards, and other metrics symbols.