Marketing’s Weekly Dose of the Truth

Ken Magill

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Facebook's Email Will Rule the World! Mwahahahahahahahahahah! Er, Not

I have a confession to make. I don’t use Facebook. I keep thinking I should, and then the martinis get poured and I just don’t get around to it. Probably a good thing, considering.

In fact, I don’t even know if I have a Facebook account. I don’t remember ever setting one up, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t.

And every time I think about Facebook, I thank sweet Jesus it didn’t exist when I was in my teens and twenties. Let’s just say that even without Facebook, from the mid-seventies to the early eighties, I utterly disqualified myself from ever running for any type of public office.

If I were to run for anything, my answers to reporters would be something along the lines of: “Hashish? Latex? Amsterdam? 1979? I don’t recall. Oh, you have pictures? Okay. Then, um, yeah, I guess. But I still don’t recall.”

So, yes, I’m thankful social media didn’t exist in the seventies and eighties.

Today, however, I am acutely interested in Facebook. Why? Because it’s just launched an email platform called Messages:

“We are also providing an email address to every person on Facebook who wants one,” wrote Facebook engineer Joel Seligstein in a post. ”Now people can share with friends over email, whether they're on Facebook or not. To be clear, Messages is not email. There are no subject lines, no cc, no bcc, and you can send a message by hitting the Enter key. We modeled it more closely to chat and reduced the number of things you need to do to send a message. We wanted to make this more like a conversation.”

Before the official announcement, a bunch of folks got to speculating and most deemed a Facebook email platform an email-marketing game changer and possibly a Gmail killer. Why? Because Facebook has some 500 million users and having an address associated with their Facebook accounts will be very convenient, among other things.

But notice the post went out of its way to explain it’s not email.

Moreover, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said yesterday: “This is not an email-killer. This is a messaging system that includes email as one part of it.”

First, we can give the email doomsayers some slack because they made their predictions before the official announcement. Then again, maybe we should cut them no slack because they made predictions without any inside information whatsoever. They just started yapping.

But just pretend for a moment that Facebook’s announcement and Zuckerberg didn’t say Messages is not email, but rather, said that it had all the features and functions of Gmail and then some.

There are two things email’s predictors of doom always fail to take into account: 1) Inertia plays a huge role in people’s lives. 2) People’s media consumption and technology use are not zero sum games.

As I write this, there are nine browsers—including one with my Gmail inbox and one with my Yahoo email account—open on my computer screen, my office landline is on my desk along with my Droid—which one rings depends on who is calling—and Dr. Phil is on the television behind me.

Yes, I watch—or at least listen to—Dr. Phil. His guests make me feel normal.

In any case, new developments in media and technology don’t necessarily mean the end of all similar services that came before them.

Sure, Google’s Gmail has taken off, but not at the expense of Hotmail and Yahoo. And, yes, AOL is losing folks, but not because of Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail. AOL is losing folks because of its uncoolness.

There is little that says “I am a loser” like an AOL email address.

Then there is inertia. Much of marketing is overcoming it. And much of marketing is unsuccessful because inertia is such a strong force.

The beginning of this post describes my own inertia: “Facebook? Martini? Facebook? Martini? Clink, clink. Shake, shake, shake! Pour. Sip. Ahhh.”

Does anyone really think most Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail users will make the effort to switch all their transactional, professional and subscription-based email relationships to another service?

More likely, many will set up a Facebook email address, supply it to friends and maintain their other relationships on their old accounts. So no, Facebook Messages is not an immediate—and probably not a long-term—game changer for email marketers.

But then, hey, I predicted the reintroduced VW Beetle would flop. It didn’t. So take this with a grain of salt.


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Terms: Feel free to be as big a jerk as you want, but don't attack anyone other than me personally. And don't criticize people or companies other than me anonymously. Got something crappy to say? Say it under your real name. Anonymous potshots and personal attacks aimed at me, however, are fine.

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Date: 2010-12-13 05:51:32

I have killed numerous email accounts over the past few years and won't hesitate to get rid of Gmail if I can get everything on 1 platform. And since 95% of my contacts are active FB users... I might be wrong, time will tell.