Facebook Email – is it appropriate for businesses?

After the announcement at the end of last year that Facebook would continue its world domination by creating a Facebook email system, it has now been launched in America and won’t be long before it makes it over here to the UK.

It’s apparently so revolutionary that Mark Zuckerberg has made it clear that: “It’s not email.”

The new system combines messages, texts and instant chat in one place; creating a trackable history of communication between your contacts and gives users the opportunity to get an @facebook.com email account; something which is a considerable threat to free email facilities like Google’s Gmail.

What the new Facebook Messaging looks like

What the new Facebook Messaging looks like

source

So is this the nail in the coffin; the validation that Facebook, and other social networks, have become so powerful that they need to be part of a business’s activity? If you think, before the latter part of the 20th Century, the notion of sending an instant message from a typewriter through the undiscovered cyberspace was all too much to fathom – so is this just the next step in professional communication?

Or, is the innovative way they are trying to provide communication tool just not appropriate for a professional environment?

Zuckerberg has even said the notion came about from talking with children:  

“Whenever I get a chance to talk to high schoolers, I always want to ask them what kind of software they’re using…. So I asked them: What do you use for email? [And they answered,] ‘Some of us use Gmail. Some of us use Yahoo. But we don’t really use email.’ And I said, ‘What do you mean you don’t use email? Everyone uses email.’ And they said, ‘No. It’s too slow.’”

Why it could work for businesses:

-          Email is closed, point to point, where CC-ing is about as multiple as it gets. But social networking is all about the conversation – possibly removing that predictable sudden lack of a reply when you bring up a touchy subject.

-          To be as effective as possible, social media should be used as a complement to other marketing strategies, such as email marketing and, what do you know, this facility can combine the two, saving precious time.

-          Maybe having an email address from a brand that also has pages like ‘Can This Sausage Roll Get More Fans Than Cheryl Cole?’ may not be so good for straight-laced businesses like accountants, but for the more creative companies who are trying to create a fun and funky image – it could work to your advantage.

-          However cheesy it may sound, the children really are the future. Email use is declining  in the younger generation, and it is these kids who are the business owners of tomorrow.

Why it may not work for businesses:

-          In the new system, when you send messages to external email addresses, they’re formatted to look like your messages on Facebook, with your name and profile picture along with your message. This means ensuring your personal page is clean enough to be seen by your business contacts… taking the fun out of social networking completely.

-          Combining business and pleasure could also be a problem for those skivers within the business – you can just hear the excuses of: “I’m sending a Facebook message,” when really they’ll be looking at said sausage roll fan page.

-          In the same sense, you would have to be extra careful that you don’t get your private details mixed up with your professional ones; having a cousin with the same name as your MD could cause a few embarrassing communication mishaps.

-          While ‘children are the future’, using them as a focus group for the future of a multi-billion dollar industry is a bit risky, with their tendency to flit between trends and worrying level of bad grammar. So deciding to inform all of your professional contacts of your @facebook.com email address, only for it to become devalued over the years as trends change, could be a risky move.

Either way, the fact is Facebook is a branded juggernaut, and no longer just a social network, but a way of life – likely to revolutionise communication as we know it.

Read the official Facebook blog post about the new messaging service.

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