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Instant Communication Speeds Word of Mouth Marketing

It was bound to happen. Someone finally declared the end of e-mail as we know it. Turns out that someone was Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook. Word of mouth marketing is getting another leg up on instant messaging for the generation who craves immediacy.

That generation has largely moved beyond e-mail already. Facebook is tapping into users’ need for a suite of options through which to communicate to their network.

Here are some highlights of the scoop as written by Brad Stone for Business Week.

Facebook’s Modern Messaging System

  • In a rollout on Nov. 15 of its revamped messaging system, Facebook’s 26-year-old founder declared the age of e-mail over, dragged down by what he called the “weight and friction” of having to remember people’s addresses and sort through unwanted messages from strangers.
  • In its place, the social network introduced an inbox that stresses instant communication, mashing together e-mail with instant messages and cell phone texts into a single stream of chatter, customized for the Age of Urgency.
  • The new service, which will be introduced slowly over the next few months to Facebook’s 550 million members, treats every message like a five-alarm fire, popping up on the Facebook screen to be read and answered immediately.
  • Members will get a Facebook.com address and the ability to send and receive e-mail, texts, and IMs from the social network to people who do not use it. And Facebook will record all of it, preserving every missive (even the trivial “hang on, BRB”) for posterity.

“Five years from now, you are going to have the full rich history of all the communication you have with each of your friends and the people around you,” Zuckerberg said.

The Competition Fights Back

Zuckerberg and his colleagues concede that it’s unlikely people will abandon their other e-mail accounts. They’re betting on the next generation—young people already addicted to real-time texts and IMs, who have already largely written off e-mail.

Facebook’s rivals are also racing to build simpler, real-time communication systems. Google has long allowed users to see instant messages and texts alongside Gmail, and recently added a feature called Priority Inbox, which tries to gauge a user’s most important conversations and bring them to the top of the pile.

  • Former market-share leader AOL, now the fifth-largest e-mail provider on the Web (according to ComScore), previewed changes earlier this month that also will integrate texts and IMs, and lets users see images, maps, and other attachments contained in a message in a panel on the side of the screen.
  • Those services are more open than Facebook; for example, their users can link them to corporate mail services like Microsoft Exchange. Facebook isn’t there yet.

What does this mean for marketers? As the social sphere turns, influencers will be ready for companies and brands who embrace the new as it happens. Be willing to test, refine and measure – real time.

Marketing can and should change along with technology. There may be bumps along the way, but the winners will be the leaders.

Word of mouth marketing via mobile applications and Facebook are the social places to be. But don’t forget that word of mouth is driven through all forms of communication – not just social. Knowing which communication outlets your target interacts with is still a critical piece of research.


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