Marketers see hurdle after Facebook’s social inbox ‘double opt-in’ deployed

Not many customers on the National Geographic Society ?e-mail list opt to receive mail at the new address. This hasn’t stopped the nonprofit from thinking about how its ?e-mail marketing program should ?incorporate this new domain.?

“It’s still early, but when we get to the point that we start seeing more of these e-mail addresses, we are thinking about sending an e-mail educating the recipient about how to white list our address,” says Marc Haseltine, manager of e-mail and alternative marketing at National Geographic. “The goal is to teach them how they can move us out of their ‘other’ folder and into their ‘social inbox.'”?

Facebook Messages launched its “social inbox” in beta last November and began rolling it out to members of the world’s largest social network in February. The Facebook inbox ?allows users to centralize e-mail, text messages and instant messages, while also providing an individualized [email protected] e-mail address, if they choose. The account has more ?privacy settings than traditional e-mail ?accounts. Only e-mails from friends will go directly into this “social ?inbox,” while all other e-mails are sent to an “other” folder. “This is challenging for marketers,” says David Daniels, founder of The Relevancy Group, “because now you have to get consumers to move you into the social inbox. It’s like a double opt-in.”?

Facebook has explained that its ?intention is, in fact, to reduce the amount of marketing users see in their primary inboxes. A company blog post on the new service explains ?further: “It seems wrong that an ?e-mail message from your best friend gets sandwiched between a bill and a bank statement.”?

When Direct Marketing News reached out to Facebook to comment for this story, Arielle Aryah, a member of the Facebook corporate communications team, responded via e-mail: “It is not really the appropriate channel for marketers as it is a private form ?of communication.”?

Nonetheless, the potential impact of Facebook e-mail for marketers should not be ignored. Facebook says that 350 million accounts already use Facebook’s existing e-mail messaging platform, and Relevancy Group research found that 20% of consumers said they would create a new @Facebook e-mail address. ?

Fadó Pubs, a chain of Irish-themed restaurants based in Atlanta, has yet to see any @Facebook addresses opt in to its e-mail list, but John Piccirillo, director of marketing and development at the company, notes the power that Facebook and social media trends in general wield. For example, Fadó has taken a more casual tone in its ?e-mail marketing based on the conversations on its social networking pages. ?

With this surge in new e-mail ?addresses coming to the market, brands will also need to remain aggressive in terms of address capture by adding data capture points to Facebook pages, e-commerce sites and cash registers. ?

Another e-mail service provider, Experian CheetahMail, says it has tallied less than 35,000 consumers with @Facebook addresses across its ?customer base. Still, it is moving ahead with educating its customers on Facebook e-mail strategy. ?

CheetahMail client Comedy Central has learned that e-mail tied to social media can be a great way to mobilize fans. It sent an e-mail reminding its subscribers who were attending Jon Stewart’s “Rally to Restore Sanity” in October 2010 to check in through Foursquare and 25,000 people did so. ?

Facebook Messages is a newer facet of this phenomenon, but savvy marketers are preparing nonetheless. After all, “Facebook is bigger than Google,” in terms of the number of hours the public spends on it, says Sara Ezrin, senior director of strategic services at Experian CheetahMail.

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