Facebook: It’s not an email killer


Share on LinkedIn

Many have interpreted Facebook’s recent announcement of its unified communications platform as a threat to commercial email. Despite remarks declaring email to be “too slow and formal,” Facebook has actually embraced commercial email by giving its users tools to better manage the daily email deluge arriving in their inboxes, and in doing so, may have inadvertently changed the rules of the game for email marketers.

In his press conference, CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended the messaging system, saying “This is not an email killer. This is a messaging experience that includes email as one part of it. It’s all about making communication simpler. This is the way that the future should work.” Whether the future should work this way remains to be seen, but what Facebook is doing is obvious – they want to give its 200+ Million users a reason to spend even more time on Facebook, and its advertisers even greater opportunity to reach those users. Once you sift through the cool factor of unified cross-channel friend-to-friend messaging, the announcement is really a competitive attack on other web-based email and instant messaging providers such as Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL and Google.

For the email marketer, Facebook email will just be another email client to understand and support.
What is significant to the email marketer is Zuckerberg’s statement that “you will only be able to see email that is important to you” — a concept mirrored in recent efforts by Google, Microsoft and others to filter mail by “relevancy” to a “priority inbox” by tracking email read behavior and using that information to categorize your incoming emails.

This means that the all-too-common practice of repeatedly “blasting” customers with email – simply because the incremental costs are low – will now be penalized in a new way. Previously, the most significant risk to the originator was that the customer would eventually “unsubscribe”, i.e., opt-out of future mailings. And while opt-outs are catastrophic to the email marketer, the amount of customer effort required to take action kept the percentages tolerable. Most consumers find it easier to just delete the email – which means they minimally read the subject line. Many marketers find that to be an acceptable result.

For the indiscriminate B2C marketer, Facebook’s announcement should serve as a giant wake up call. High frequency, one-size-fits-all email blasters will be now be punished for their actions as their emails are automatically routed to the “everything else” folder. With the tremendous amount of daily email received by consumers, and with Facebook’s offering, that volume being significantly expanded with the interweaving of SMS messages, chat text, and social postings, “everything else” is a purgatory from which few commercial messages will emerge.

For the data-driven email marketer, the Facebook announcement actually presents a tremendous opportunity. The care the database marketer’s taken to understand customer likes and dislikes, capture preferences that inform everything from favorite products to preferred communication frequency and timing, will now pay dividends. When, due to high relevancy scores, these messages are routed to the “priority” inbox, they will finally be able to be heard above the (current) mailbox noise. These marketers will be rewarded for their customer-centric marketing practices.

In the emerging priority inbox paradigm, email marketers will only be rewarded for sending highly relevant, well-timed and personalized email that people actually open – and further rewarded for “click-thrus,” an indisputable measure of relevancy. The marketer that sends an email once a week that is consistently opened and clicked will have a significantly higher relevancy score than the marketer who sends daily one-size-fits all messages that are ignored 6 out of 7 days. The implications are enormous: broadcasting a single email message to your entire “customer list” is now a recipe for disaster. In its place, the direct marketing disciplines of customer database management, campaign management, preference capture, customer analytics and segmentation now become the ingredients for success.

Dan Smith
Dan manages Practices Communications at Epsilon, and was previously the CMO at both Outsell Corp & ClickSquared. Prior to joining ClickSquared, Dan was the VP of channel development at Unica where he managed Unica's MSP partnerships throughout the Americas. Before its acquisition by Unica, Dan was the CMO at MarketSoft.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here