As the news broke last week that Facebook are testing a private messaging product between brand Pages and fans in Asia, a collective feeling of anticipation flooded through Marketeers the world over.
The service is set to allow brands and their fans to interact closer than they ever have before. However, before spammers rub their hands in glee Facebook requires the conversation to be instigated by the fan, not the brand/Page itself – although after initiation the conversation will be open to both parties. Facebook’s protection of the user experience has always been tight so this factor is shrewd by the social network, however it is still a big step for the protective Daddy of social media.
There’s no doubt that private messaging between Pages and fans is going to take customer service via social to a whole new level, with brands being able to offer advice, solve problems or ease concerns directly. In theory this sounds ideal for the consumer however in practice the level of queries is sure to be unmanageable for large brands such as Coca-Cola or Starbucks without investment in customer service personnel. For smaller brands it could provide a personal dialogue between parties that is missing from public activity on Facebook.
Without doubt more suited to consumer brands – I can’t see Gaga’s people responding to many messages – as a Community Manager concerns have been raised by those in the industry about private messaging and the detrimental effect it could have on engagement on brand Pages. With more people turning to PM rather than posting on a brand’s wall, liking or sharing content, the development could stifle word of mouth online and slow organic growth – ultimately effecting Edgerank (unless Facebook have factored this in). I personally can’t see this happening because in our nature, we like to share things and isn’t that what Facebook is “built” on? A ego-trip here and there. I suppose only time will tell.
One thing the service will improve is off-topic comments, with people raising queries privately rather than impacting on a post not related to their enquiry. Whatever are the pros and cons, private messaging is the new “update your fans” – remember that?! – and is set to be rolled out immanently.