Inbox Insider: Gmail going social poses challenges for marketers

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The Wall Street Journal reported this week that Google will add more social media elements to Gmail. This raises questions for marketers, many of whom have worked to integrate social technology with e-mail in recent months.

According to the Journal's story, Google could add “Tweet-like” status updates to the Gmail interface. While Gmail now displays status updates, this technology would add a feed of them from selected friends — similar to Facebook.

Imagine the potential for brands to be in that feed while an e-mail marketing message also sits in the inbox. My guess is that it will take some creative thinking for marketers to find a way into this zone.

Marketers who have found a spot in consumers' Facebook news feeds have done so by creating fan pages with fun or useful offers. Some examples are exclusive offers from Banana Republic or must-see branding messages, like the San Diego Zoo's new panda cubs.

The definition of “an inbox” is also beginning to change. MySpace has STMP-enabled e-mail, which works like a traditional e-mail service, while Yahoo offers a dashboard with a connection to Facebook, Twitter and now Google. We will likely see more integration of inboxes, and sites offering multiple services. We might also see more convergence in use, since that is easier for the consumer.

Perhaps we'll see Twitter fall to Gmail in the same way we saw MySpace overtaken by Facebook. However, I'll have to see a lot more before I predict Gmail will be the “Twitter killer” that the blogosphere is buzzing about.

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