Friday, December 21, 2012

Will Facebook $1 message work?

Facebook has been undergoing transformation.  Transformation from privately held company to publicly traded company.  It also means going from get-bigger-user-base game to start-making-money game.  Facebook seems to be on a roll to churn out a new monetization idea every other week.  This week it is to pay $1 dollar to deliver a message to anyone in their inbox, even if they are not in your social graph (not counting the failed attempt to revise Instagram TOU).

For $1, Facebook will suspend the social graph messaging rule, and allow anyone to send direct message to my inbox.  Before we jump to a conclusion that Facebook have set out to sell the user data for the highest bidder, let's see how it might work.

$1 message means people like Zuckerberg will have lot more spams in their inbox.
That may work for Zuckerberg, but not for other high profile users.

From user's perspective, user needs to care enough to open the message.  It's one thing to receive a message, and it's yet another to open one.  Facebook is betting that enough users will open and engage with the message even if they are from marketers.  If these $1 messages feel like spams, then users will quickly tune them out.  It's the Facebook's challenge to help marketers create a more compelling campaign.

From marketer's perspective, marketer needs to know how likely user is to open the message.  Because they are paying to get the message delivered, they will want to customize the message as much as they can without compromising too much user privacy.  Measurements, such as impression and click through rate, will be critical to the marketers.

Wait.  We already have this.  It's called LinkedIn InMail.  LinkedIn already lets strangers with paid account send direct messages to me.  I get them all the time.  And I admit that I open more often than webmails in junk folder.

Why?  Because the sender knows something about me, sender's identity is revealed, and the message is often about the business where I have something to gain by responding, like finding out partnership opportunity.  I often feel like I have to respond because it reflects on my personal reputation.

Will the similar dynamics be in play for Facebook $1 message?  Probably not.

That's because there is no public profile standard in Facebook, unlike LinkedIn, and Facebook is still considered personal in nature while LinkedIn is considered as business.  I may get the message from local small business owner, but I have no personal reputation on the line to respond.

Maybe what Facebook needs instead is a fresh idea like Gramicon.  Instead of destroying the established norm on Facebook, it sure feels more like Facebook that we know to push a new innovative standard.

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