Facebook Tiptoes Into Email: How Far Will It Go?

Facebook is so much in the news during this political season that some observers may have missed the story that it has started an email marketing service for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

And some who have seen it wonder whether the social media giant is plotting to take over the email field.

Probably not.

The goal is to “help SMB with a core set of tools,” says Ben Parr, president of Octane AI, a communications platform that helps ecommerce brands drive sales via Facebook Messenger and SMS, and is integrated with the former. “It’s very basic.”  

Facebook is no threat to advanced email platforms like Mailchimp and Klaviyo, Parr adds.

Why would it bother? The email business pales in comparison with Facebook’s other activities, and the firm is unlikely to expend the resources to build a true email competitor, Parr says.

In addition, Parr doubts that the wall in the walled garden is starting to come down.

“You upload your own contacts,” he says. “You can’t send unsolicited emails.”

As reported, Facebook sent an email several weeks ago inviting small businesses to “Send Marketing Emails From Your Page.” 

The message says: “Reconnect with your email subscriber using marketing emails. Select your audience, customize your design and track performance all in one place. Confirm your page’s email address to get started.”

Users are prompted to enter contacts with email addresses. Once that is done, they can enter subject lines and preview text and headlines.  

Will Facebook offer segmentation and personalization capabilities based on behavior on its platform and elsewhere and scan email response for use in serving ads? Parr doubts that its main objective is to use data in that way.

Other experts agree that Facebook has a limited agenda in mind.

"Facebook Messaging could be a great way for SMBs to dip their toes into digital marketing and communications via their store/fan pages if they're not already sending email,” says April Mullen, director of strategic insight for the email provider SparkPost. 

Mullen adds, “I don't think Facebook will effectively compete for the business of senders already using another SMB email service provider. With Facebook Pages sending, email addresses still have to be collected and loaded into the system, just as they would for another free to low-cost email service provider.”

Mullen’s verdict? “I don't see any new capabilities or efficiencies that would appear to make this worth the effort of a migration -- especially for small businesses."  

Facebook would be a formidable competitor if it decided to compete. But Parr agrees that Facebook is not planning to scale up. “It’s unlikely in my opinion,” he says.

Curb your paranoia. 

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