Future Of Email? Keep An Eye On Facebook
Last month the social giant announced "Facebook Messages," its latest development to make messaging easier by combining text, IM and "email" messaging for a more easily and instantaneous "Social Inbox." Facebook executives developed the new technology because, as they put it, parts of conversations are "locked" on a particular service or device -- IM, text, email, etc. "Facebook Messages" consolidates and prioritizes it all in one location. And you can even include people not on Facebook, too. All users can get an @Facebook.com "email" that is designed to be less formal and instantaneous, like IM and text. For example, no formal subject lines needed. Ideal for how teens currently are accustomed to communicating.
But executives and pundits stress this isn't an email replacement. As Mark Zuckerberg said, "This is not an email killer. This is a messaging system that includes email as one part of it ... because we know who your friends are, we can do some really good filtering for you to make sure you only see messages you care about."
But make no mistake about it: "Facebook Messages" will have an impact on today's "email" and how we communicate, starting with teen demographic.
Why teens? Well, study after study show how email usage is significantly lower than text, cell phone and social in terms of teens' daily communications. Teenagers today consider email to be a "grown-up medium" and not ideal for day-to-day communication with their peers, according to a recent study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project and the University of Michigan.
Most teens always have their phones with them, equipped with instant texting and access to Facebook. And the proliferation of smartphones -- projected to boom in 2011 and beyond -- will only enhance teens' mobile communications, as well as the population's at whole. It's no wonder most teens do view email as "long form," clunky and "old" as compared to texting, cell phones and Facebook.
Consider this rising teen generation that will have grown up with instant and social communications like text and Facebook. It's not a stretch to imagine their interactions with these media can have a large influence as they enter the collegiate world and then into the corporate world, bringing these communication habits along. After all, throughout the years, communication technologies are constantly replaced by newer ones -- history is littered with it. Know anyone with a pager? When was the last time you faxed something? Dial up your Internet access lately?
What I am saying is if "Facebook Messages" makes email an easier, less formal and instant communication tool, something we know teens like, then its use among them will change and grow. The social history aspect of messaging is going to be really compelling to this audience. Imagine if you had a digital version of all those notes you passed back and forth with your best friend or first boyfriend?
And since "Messages" essentially changes how you digest and communicate with all your devices -- by funneling everything through the Facebook ecosystem -- how we communicate will drastically change. Instead of checking many different devices/outlets, Facebook becomes your communication hub (it already is for many). See what I mean by our initial "operating system of the Internet" statement?
Savvy marketers should have social networks like Facebook as a key part of their marketing-communications mix -- and most all do, of course. But it does not stop with a Fan page. As marketers we must closely follow Facebook changes and adaptations to stay on top of the new communication trends to adapt our engagement relationship with Fans.
I realize Facebook and social moves at a lightning pace, with some new development and change every day. But there are many qualified companies who can provide the technology and service to navigate those waters. It's a fascinating medium, this social network revolution, led by an equally fascinating company in Facebook. We will keep watching, developing and innovating to help marketers stay on top of the changes.