||The social networking behemoth Facebook is preparing the launch of Project Titan, a proprietary webmail structure that will facilitate its users in communicating via email on accounts that the platform itself provides. Given that Facebook boasts more than 400 million adherents, Project Titan could mark a seismic shift that will change the email marketing industry forever… or it could be the latest in a long line of "the next big online things" that fizzle out.
A Closed Email System Seems Counter-Intuitive
Facebook's webmail is conceived to go head to head with the major webmail providers such as Hotmail, Yahoo, and Gmail. Although the details of the service are not yet fully known, if it is based on Facebook's current messaging system, it will likely create a no-spam zone since it will only allow members to be contacted by individuals who are already within their social circle. The concept of a "closed" webmail service may at first sound counter-intuitive, but it is a somewhat logical extension of Facebook's myriad "sealed social bubbles." If you are on a friend list, you can exchange communication. If not, then the door gets slammed in your face.
The current speculation surrounds the concept that Facebook will integrate a strict system of permissions in order to keep unsolicited email out of the Project Titan inboxes. The challenges a system such as this presents to email marketers can be considerable. Obtaining permission will take on an entirely new meaning when reaching out to an audience requires their concession to gain access to their inner social sanctum.
The Negative Aspects: 400 Million Cocooning Out Of Reach
The negative aspects center around the development of a xenophobic email culture where messages are exchanged only from known and "friendly" entities. Such a closure would not only limit an individual's exposure to experiences that they may not know that they would appreciate, but could also shut off a considerable number of email prospects to email marketers. 400 million people is a number that is difficult to ignore, and if many of these individuals would gravitate towards the relative comfort of a closed email model, that could put a sizeable dent into the current email audience available to marketers.
The Positive Aspects: If You Can Get In, You're Family
The positive aspects are that any brand that does manage to gain access into the social bubble finds virtually unlimited goodwill and enthusiastic response. Once the connection is successfully established between marketer and Facebooker, it would be tantamount to being named a part of the family. Millions of individuals spend countless hours on Facebook socializing, chatting and just generally communicating with each other, so the sheer amount of exposure that a brand could yield in an integrated email and social networking platform such as this could be beyond a marketer's wildest expectations.
Facebook Is Establishing Itself As A Web Within A Web
Although virtually every company from Ma & Pa level on up now has a webpage, the number of companies which have supplemented their online presence with a Facebook Fan Page is only a mere percentage of that total. Whether we like it or not, Facebook is establishing itself as a web within a web, and if its exponential expansion continues, it will very soon be a force that every email marketer must reckon with.
With Project Titan, Facebook may be taking a step from "that weird place where the strange emo people hang out" to a fully mainstream online macro-community which no email marketer can possibly afford to ignore... or to be locked out of.