If the web is about opening us to new, will Facebook messages close us off?

The latest Facebook enhancement messages is being touted as an e-mail killer in some circles. To give Facebook credit, it isn’t just e-mail. (Watch this video for an overview of messages.) It looks to be a clever way to tie together several of our disparate methods of communicating. But there are a few interesting questions that messages bring up.

Is Facebook messages the end of e-mail marketing? Messages has a very powerful filter that is inherent to Facebook. It can allow contact based on a combination of privacy settings, context, and Facebook friends/connections. So, even if someone opted-in to your e-mail newsletter in the past, if and when they migrate to Facebook messages you may lose that connection. They may never see your e-mail, or the way the e-mail is presented will be different at least and you will no longer be able to rely on “Subject” to result in an opening of the e-mail. The opening of the message will be dependent on the recipient being interested in your message in the context of your Facebook connection – your Facebook profile.

The delivery of messages might present some interesting challenges for marketers that use e-mail, but a bigger picture, societal question is: Will messages make people even less exposed to diverse ideas? Collectively we became more closed to new ideas as we became less reliant on a small number of news and information sources. Twenty years ago we had few TV channel sources, limited newspapers and magazines, and AM/FM radio. We all were fairly likely to flip through the limited sources of information that we had and in so doing be exposed to different viewpoints. After all there was only one conservative information source, one liberal information source, and a couple of blended sources. If you listened to more than one source you were bound to be exposed to differing viewpoints.

Now we have Sirius, Fox News, MSNBC, Bloomberg, USAToday, local papers, and endless web-based sources of information. Google conservative news and you will get over 25,000,000 results. We could surf, flip, or concentrate our radio time on endless choices of information narrowly focused on one viewpoint. Facebook messages might build that in by default in the filter it uses closing us off to differing viewpoints even more than we aready are. We could expand this concern beyond just Facebook. Rockmelt is the soon to launch web-browser that basically incorporates Facebook and other social media sites into the sidebars.

I don’t know where messages will take us yet. But it’s important to start considering the implications quickly. How do you see Facebook messages effecting your marketing efforts or opinions in the future?

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