What Facebook Messages means for b-to-b marketers

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Facebook on Monday announced a new messaging system that will combine Facebook messages, e-mail, SMS or texts, and chat in a single format.

Facebook Messages will filter communications from friends and friends of friends, sending those messages directly to the inbox; messages that aren’t from such connections will go into an “Other” folder. Facebook will also offer its own version of Microsoft’s Office suite, called Facebook Docs, which will allow users to open Word, Excel and PowerPoint attachments whether or not they have that software installed. The new messaging system, according to Facebook, will help users simplify their communications. Additionally, the company announced that all of its 500 million active users would get the opportunity to add an e-mail address.

The announcement may seem only peripherally relevant to b-to-b marketers that send e-mail primarily to corporate e-mail addresses, but one industry expert said it’s something all marketers should be watching closely. “There was an interesting June IDC study that pointed out a lot of business is being conducted via methods that companies don’t know about,” said Dave Lewis, CMO at e-mail service provider Message Systems. “Employees are using text and social and personal e-mail to conduct business transactions.”

B-to-b marketers may have to add options to their opt-in forms so customers and prospects can choose exactly how they would like to be contacted, said Dennis Dayman, chief privacy and deliverability officer at Eloqua, a marketing automation provider. “Marketers that are using Facebook need to make sure they have strong preference options to give people the opportunity to make a choice in how they receive their information and in what format versus in just a single e-mail inbox,” he said.

E-mail formatting may also need to change, said David Daniels, CEO of research and consultancy the Relevancy Group. “Once we see more people moving onto the Facebook messaging, subject lines are going to become less important. It’s going to be about the conversation, not the subject line,” he said.

And then there’s the issue of making it into the inbox at all. People might like your brand and your products. and purchase from you often, Daniels said, but not want to become a Facebook friend or fan of your company because the action reflects on their personality and persona. “This means—at least for people who make the switch and make Facebook Messages their primary address or use it as a secondary or tertiary account—it’s going to be harder to get to those people,” he said.

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