helping brands make perfect sense of social media, from IAB UK’s social media council

by Rob Salmon, Director of Digital Marketing at Torchbox

In a very little while I’d like to look at Facebook’s new communications system which was announced on Monday 15 November, its key features and what it could mean for organisations using Facebook. If you’ve not read up on this I’d suggest taking a view of this video to start of with.

First up though, three quick ways I’ve used Facebook to communicate in the past week.

Last Saturday, I tried to fix our dishwasher. I am not like Bob The Builder. He can fix things. I didn’t even have the right screwdriver. So I put an appeal out to my Facebook friends. Within minutes I had had a few sarcastic comments and a few offers of help.

The other night I was the dull one working away. Saying that, I was keeping an eye on Facebook. My wife was downstairs watching TV / on her laptop. Her updates really made me laugh. Bizarre I thought, I’m keeping in touch with what my wife’s up to via Facebook even though she’s just downstairs.

Yesterday I was on a train. I found out via Facebook on my phone that my elder brother had gone for an MRI scan on his shoulder. I could chat about it with him using Facebook.

‘What’s your point caller?’ Well, the point is, I spend sheds loads of time on Facebook! And so do millions and millions of others (500 million active users, 700 billion minutes spent on Facebook per month, 30 billion pieces of content shared each month). From the young to the old, Facebook is increasingly universal.

It is for this reason that the announcement of Facebook’s new communications system interests me.

I use Facebook more and more for conversations. Conversations with friends. Conversations with family. Conversations with organisations I’m passionate about.

From what I can tell (and I’m going on reports / videos as it isn’t yet launched in the UK and is invite only in the USA), the new system is designed to make conversations easier. And for me that’s a good thing. If it really takes off it will also be a very good thing for Facebook because they will increasingly be the facilitator and storage centre for conversations that take place online.

So what do the key features appear to be?

Multiple platform messaging: You decide how to communicate with people – SMS, chat, email (you can have an email address if you like) or messages. And your friends will receive the message in whatever form works for them. You just type the name. Type the message. And it all happens in real time.

Conversation history: All the conversations you have with someone will be stored in one place.

Social inbox: The example Facebook gave to bring this aspect to life was an email message from your best friend can get stuck between a bank statement and a bill. ‘With the new messages system, your inbox will only contain messages from your friends and their friends. All other messages will go into an Other folder where you can look at them separately.’

And what does this mean for organisations?

It’s early days and I shall report back when I’ve had a chance to have a go. However, my initial thoughts are as follows:

Play where your audience is playing: If your target audience spends time on Facebook (and the chances are they are) it makes sense for you to have a presence on Facebook. That way you have a chance to be part of the conversation.

Content is king: If you’ve got something interesting to say, people are more likely to want you to be part of the conversation. If updates from Facebook pages, go into the Other folder, perhaps (and I’m speculating here based on fact they currently go into the second tier ‘updates’ folder in messages) there will be the option to move them into the main folder. My friends entertain me. They do useful stuff for me. Organisations need to do the same if they want to have an ongoing conversation.

Media spend: Not everyone is fortunate enough to have media spend. But if you do have some funds to invest, consider running a test with Facebook. It can be incredibly targeted and can be a great way of starting conversations with people. See this biggest brands on Facebook infographic – as you’ll see, 75% of brands’ Facebook ‘likes’ come from ads.

As I say, it’s early days for Facebook’s new system and the above is based on what I’ve heard, what I’ve watched and what I’ve read – but I’d love to know if you have any thoughts / insight – why not join the conversation below?!


[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by IAB UK, Torchbox, Rob Salmon, Rob Salmon, Jonny Grum and others. Jonny Grum said: RT @rsalmonuk: The evolution of Facebook messages – will you be part of the conversation? (blog post for @IABUK) [...]

Dan Neal
November 17, 2010

Great post Rob. I think we’re really starting to see a merging of all our communications now – online and offline. I don’t think any platform has it nailed yet though. But it’s providing some great opportunities for digital marketers!

Andy Henwood
November 18, 2010

Great points Rob. I agree that Facebook seems to be the natural place for all comms to happen on a single platform. Saw a piece by Microsoft last week suggesting that Facebook communications are becoming so successful that they could end email, I do indeed see people using Facebook rather than email already !!

Nathon Raine
November 19, 2010

Without seeing Facebook messages in action it’s impossible to judge, but I have to say I’m sceptical.

Anything that means more people spending more time on Facebook clearly ups Facebook’s formidable and ever-growing importance in some way.

But messaging is a hard nut to crack, and I’m not sure that convergence of platforms (email, IM, FB’s current messaging system) will make a massive difference *unless* Facebook have found a way to make it super easy to use.

Because ease-of-use usually wins. And I’m struggling to see how it will ever be easier to, say, send a text message from a mobile phone on a busy train by using Facebook rather than your phone’s native texting facility.

Feels a bit like a solution in search of a problem. But it’s a solution I haven’t yet seen, and it could be marvellous and transformative. We’ll soon see!

Tom Ollerton
December 15, 2010

This all sounds very similar to Google Wave which was rubbish and didn’t really solve any problems, hence its demise. People talk of convergence as some kind of Mecca but in reality we communicate on lots of different levels (body language, tone of voice etc) and we’re used to being polygamous when it comes to communicating so it’s natural for us to do this online also.

Post a comment