Facebook’s move increases emails relevance in social communication

Facebook Messages Kills Email? Think again.

Facebook’s new “Messages” service was apparently called a “Gmail killer” internally at the company. Some analysts have pronounced email dead.

That’s interesting and pretty naive. Instant messaging already killed email, then RSS killed it, then SMS, then Twitter, and now, finally, Facebook has killed it. Email is the most frequently killed digital communication channel in history. (see: Channel Surfing)

Email has actually thrived as new channels have increased time online and digital communication in general.

Far from killing off email, Facebook’s move has increased email’s relevance in social communication. Email‘s strengths as a channel continue to be reinforced in a world where digital communication increasingly dominates all other forms of human interaction.

Strength 1: Email works well with others. For most people online, email is the hub of all online activity.

Strength 2: Email is asynchronous. Facebook Messages is supposed to incorporate email into the real-time communication that we apparently all want and need. While that might work for techies and children, most of us still spend a lot of our time not plugged into the “digital Matrix.” Google Wave was launched to make interactions and collaboration more real-time.

Facebook Messages seems to draw from the same flawed belief amongst young techies that no one should reflect on anything or go offline for more than a few minutes. Even digital natives will eventually have demanding jobs, children, school conferences, etc. that limit their ability to be online 24/7 and perhaps reduce their interest in doing so as well.

Strength 3: Email is open. Facebook Messages does make Facebook email more relevant by creating optional email addresses for Facebook users to allow non-Facebook users to get messages “in” to the Facebook inbox. This will be particularly useful for government agencies because it will provide an efficient way to get new messages to Facebook users without going through the Facebook message sending interface.

For government organisations, Facebook Messages doesn’t seem to address any of the major challenges facing Government today. How do you build your audience in the first place? How do you automate multi-channel communication? How do you engage people effectively? How do you track results? How do you give them exactly what they want? It’s nice to get more direct access to the Facebook “inbox,” but that’s just Facebook addressing a deficiency.

There doesn’t appear to be any new or truly unique benefits offered within Facebook Messages from the standpoint of government-to-public communication. (see “Facebook Messaging is NOT Good Enough for Government Work on GovLoop”)

It is up to Government to look towards technologies that allow Facebook users to personalise the type and frequency of messages that they receive from you. Without this you’ll almost certainly end up in the Facebook Messages equivalent of the spam folder.

In our work at GovDelivery with over 400 government agencies, we’ve seen a few things hold up across channels.

  1. Allowing subscribers to personalise the messages they receive because agencies have diverse content and the public has diverse needs and interests.
  2. Automating messages when information changes so information goes out quickly and consistently on topics of interest.
  3. Tracking message usage and reach and connecting outreach opportunities and content across multiple channels and government offices.

While Facebook has it out with its competitors, governments can continue to focus on these basics and be happy that they now have even greater access to Facebook users than ever before using a channel that once again seems poised to thrive in the aftermath of an assassination attempt… email.

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