3 Reasons Why Facebook Messages Are Irrelevant to Email Marketers

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After Paul’s overview post on Facebook Messages, I started to dig in and learn more about how Facebook Messages handles email to form my own opinion on whether “Project Titan” is going to destroy or revolutionize email marketing (or somewhere in between). I’ve discovered a great deal regarding how Facebook handles inbox organization, from addresses, from names, and subject lines which leads me to believe that marketers are certainly in for a challenge, but I’m still not convinced that the email marketing apocalypse is imminent.

Inbox Delivery and Organization

One of the first things I noticed about Messages was the presence of an “Other” subfolder under the main Messages folder. As I began testing, I saw that traditional marketing emails sent from Litmus were delivered to the “Other” folder, while emails sent from a personal Yahoo! account landed in the main Messages folder.

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Facebook will route “bulk” messages to the Other folder, while making an attempt to deliver personal emails to the main Messages folder. I found this behavior to be inconsistent at best. Not only were emails sent from my Yahoo! and Gmail accounts delivered to the main Messages folder, but they also contained my Facebook profile picture. Emails sent from Hotmail, however, were delivered to the Other folder and did not include my photo. Facebook appears to be linking personal email addresses registered with user profiles and grouping Messages sent from that that user accordingly, regardless of where the Message originated.

From Name & From Address

Facebook bundles emails, Facebook messages, chats and text messages together in one thread, organized by from address. When I tested using different from names along with the same from address, emails were grouped together in a single conversation thread. Below, you’ll see that 5 separate messages with from names of “Litmus”, “Justine, Litmus” and “Matthew Brindley” were grouped together into a single conversation since each contained a from address of hello@litmus.com. The top-level label of the message thread also changes along with the from name.

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Subject Lines

Facebook places a great deal of emphasis on the casual nature of Messages, stating that there is “no need for subject lines or other formalities.” For traditional emails delivered via Messages, this means that subject lines appear in bold text on the first line of the body of the email. Since Messages are organized by from address, each email and it’s associated subject line appears in the same thread.

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What does it all mean?

Facebook Messages have a great deal of potential to allow individuals to connect in a simple and meaningful way. The concept is obviously centered around maximizing these personal, one-on-one connections while filtering what would be considered unwanted or bulk mail. With the default settings, only messages from friends or friends of friends appear in the main Messages folder. Everything else ends up in Other, arguably making Other the new “spam” or “junk.” The novelty here is that this filtering is based solely on whether or not you are friends with the sender on Facebook, rather than content or reputation filtering.

Brands attempting to deliver marketing messages to @facebook.com email addresses are likely to be frustrated by these behaviors. Not only do HTML email messages default to their text counterparts, but subject lines and from names are rendered irrelevant due to the way Facebook organizes incoming messages. While I don’t anticipate the adoption of @facebook.com addresses to skyrocket in the near term, what’s stopping consumers from using their Facebook email address as their new “junk” address, knowing that these messages will automatically be filtered into the Other folder? Only time will tell.

High-level details regarding these behaviors are also available in Facebook’s Help Center.