Will Email Marketers “Like” the New Facebook Social Inbox?

Late this fall, Facebook announced a new messaging service that combines all of a user’s message types –- Facebook messages, emails, SMS, chat messages, etc. — into a single bucket. Unlike current email platforms, however, that bucket would have 3 dividers, or more correctly, “folders” labeled Messages, Other, and Spam. The “Messages” folder would receive messages only from Facebook friends. The “Other” folder is for messages from everyone else (e.g. marketers sending newsletters, sale notices, special offers, coupons, etc.) and the “Spam” folder is for (what else?) spam. As a result, marketers will need a “friends” strategy because if your customer/prospect doesn’t put you on their “friends” list, you won’t get into their preferred folder.

The More Things Change…

Now, you can put your head down and hope Facebook’s messaging concept doesn’t catch on, but have you ever heard of MySpace? You know — the “original” social networking site that laid off 1,000 people in recent weeks? My point is that it’s better to be prepared than to be caught short, particularly since social networking usage has risen from 35% in 2008 to 61% in 2010 among all online American adults.

Now, obviously everyone won’t switch over to this system – lots of people will remain loyal to their current email providers, and Facebook says it is rolling out its Social Inbox gradually, but some folks within your database will switch. So here’s what you need to start thinking about to deal with the Facebook Social Inbox:

What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?

Once you get into the friends folder, the frequency with which you are sending emails will be blatantly evident. Yours will not be one of the 50 – 75 emails that person is receiving daily as before. Rather your emails will be of a chosen few, so you have to be much more conscious of the message. Your emails should tell a story – perhaps have a theme that runs from email to email to email. If you’re sending the same email/message week after week, it will be obvious and boring and you might very well be “de-friended.” This is the kind of connection most email marketers have not had to make previously, so you’ll really have to consider your frequency and content carefully.

Speak Their Language

Set up an IM account so your friendly Facebook customer/friends can easily contact you. Since the Social Inbox allows people to contact you via IM, SMS or email, you need to be ready for them. Let them know they can contact you anytime to start a conversation or ask a question about your product or service.

Check Your Work

Set up Facebook Social Inbox seed accounts so you can be sure where your emails are landing and make sure you’re satisfied with how they render. Sign up for other marketers’ emails so you can get a feel for the Social Inbox experience from the other side as well.

Create Thoughtfully

Consider developing a completely different marketing plan for Facebook addresses. This is a great opportunity for testing! And make sure to suppress any Facebook email addresses from your regular lists because they will be unable to read HTML.

Better Safe than Sorry

Even though there is uncertainty regarding the popularity of the Social Inbox, you should develop your strategy for dealing with this possible juggernaut. If nothing else, we can depend on the ever changing world of social marketing to keep us on our toes!

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