The "Other" Inbox

Like AOL before it, Facebook has outgrown its walled garden. Last year they started previewing "". Their blog is careful to point out this is not e-mail; rather, it is a way to communicate with all your friends, wherever they may be, on their preferred messaging system.

One of the new features introduced in the "Messages" program that's currently getting a lot of attention in digital marketing circles is the Social Inbox. From the blog:

It seems wrong that an email message from your best friend gets sandwiched between a bill and a bank statement. It's not that those other messages aren't important, but one of them is more meaningful. With new Messages, your Inbox will only contain messages from your friends and their friends. All other messages will go into an Other folder where you can look at them separately.

If someone you know isn't on Facebook, that person's email will initially go into the Other folder. You can easily move that conversation into the Inbox, and all the future conversations with that friend will show up there.
The basic idea is very cool: separate out the "important" messages so you see them sooner. It's the second paragraph that has marketers worried.

Assume that Messages will be successful; given the number of Facebook users, if only 1% use Messages it will have a huge user base. The way Facebook sees it, the "" address will stay with you for life. Soon you will have people at trade shows give you Facebook email addresses for your mailing list. Because they opted-in, your newsletter will get past their Spam filter...

...and get stuck in the Other inbox. Which they will check less often, if at all.

Other services have introduced similar plans, such as Google's "Priority Inbox", leading to what some are starting to call a "Double Opt-In" obstacle: someone that wants your newsletter must voluntarily sign up AND move you to their "Friend" list. Many people will not do this, or will not know how, meaning that even prospects interested in hearing what you have to say might not see your emails.

So how do we adapt to this? Sadly, it is too soon to say for sure. We have not had time to develop best practices, other than remind subscribers to add you to the Social Inbox. For many companies this will be an added incentive to use Facebook for business, so their prospects and clients can also be their Friends.

For now, be aware this is a coming issue. Keep doing Spam-free email, and try to diversify your media channels so that Facebook users that miss your email can still find you on YouTube or Twitter.