Wednesday, 11 May 2011

'' email addresses coming very soon. For facebook pages too?

Back in November, the new facebook messaging system was announced, with the promise that everybody would be entitled to the email address some time soon. Initially though, only the special people were invited.

The announcement in February, that the system was now rolling out to everyone, was less well reported, but brought it a little closer.

Next I hear, a real world friend tells me yesterday, that when he logged in, a pop-up allowed him to setup the email address. I hadn't recieved this and quickly seethed with jealousy. I wasn't quite sure why I was so excited by the prospect or what I'd do with it when I got one, but I wanted one.

So, this got me to thinking, what use will they be, especially in relation to businesses? Will this be a game changer, a seismic shift or will little change? As the prospect of widespread availability comes closer, it's certainly something to be considered.

But before all that, I needed to try and get hold of one. After borrowing my friend's facebook account and routing around and exchanging several emails with his new address, just to confirm he wasn't pulling my leg, I still couldn't find out how to get hold of my address. I was especially concerned that addresses for any brands I administer should be secured, so I kept searching.

Finally, I found an introduction at, with a 'request an invitation' link to the bottom right. After clicking this, I was told I'd receive the invitation soon and I'm still waiting.

Good news I found while searching is that the email will be of the format '', i.e. if your profile address is '', your email will be ''. So, there won't be a problem with securing that.

This does raise the question though; what about business pages? There's been little to no mention of the facebook email address for pages, so they might not actually be coming as part of this, but if not, it surely can't be long before they do. The following's therefore specualtion to a certain extent and if they never come, a waste of digital ink, though I'd be very surprised if that were the case.

If email for pages follow the same pattern as for personal profiles, they also have the username, so ours being '', it follows that '' would be reserved for us. Therefore no need to worry about someone else getting in there first.

But how would an admin access it? When using the recent feature to 'use facebook as a page', unlike a personal profile, there's no private messaging system. The icon is missing between the friends and notifications icons, in the top left, next to the facebook logo. It could therefore be introduced at some point, otherwise page emails would have to go into a perosnal inbox.

I'm guessing the former will come, further encouraging people to use the 'use facebook as a page' feature. Who knows, there may even be a charge to enable it, monetising the business pages for facebook.

For that to work though, people would really need to see the benfits of using a facebook email address. So, what would they be?

Firstly, for anyone who has a facebook page as their main online presence (which there are increasing numbers of), without a separate domain name, it gives them a professional email address directly relevant to their online location.

Many micro businesses may still use a yahoo or google email address, so with their facebook page, that's effectively two domain names for clients and prospects to remember. The new email unifies these, with the easy formula of =

But what about the companies who do have a domain name and established, corresponding email? I already have ', why would I use ''?

I feel, like with many changes with facebook and the wider internet, this is a question with an evolving answer, that will become wider, yet more defined as usage increases, but here's a few thoughts.

For a start, it offers a direct point of contact that I know is going straight to a page admin. Pages should always have a contact email displayed, but it's often a 'info@..' or some such, that may have to go round other people in the company before getting to an admin.

That's great when wanting to email a page from an external email address, but the internal system will offer it's own boon. Finally, facebook users will be able to send private messages to a page, something many have been hoping for since the introduction of pages.

This would be really useful, as people don't always want to ask questions in public. If it's medical advice page, for instance, users may be embarassed to discuss their problems in a public forum.

To do this at the moment, a page can either direct users to the private inbox of a personal profile or use an exeternal email, at their own domain name or somewhere like Google.

When calling a user to action, it's commonly held wisdom that the less clicks they have to do, the more likely they are to do it. Keeping the private messaging internal means a minimum of clicks and having it around the page, rather than a personal profile, means less still. People can also be reluctant to change platforms, so keeping it within the one improves the likelihood of contact even further.

It's also worth noting that if users can private message a page, the page should be able to do the same back. This would be a vast improvement on the current 'updates' that are sent through the admin area, which are rarely viewed by recipients. It would also finally put to bed the argument over whether a page or group is better, as the one remaining advantage of a group is it's ability to private message it's members.

Private messages for pages would also be great for business to business.

When facebook introduced the option to use it as a page, that really upped the ante for using facebook for business. It's long been great for targeting consumers, but this brought in a whole new level for B2B, where businesses could now communicate on a professional level. I think we're yet to see the full potential of this and suspect it could be a potential Linkedin killer when we do.

Private messaging will take that a step further, allowing private conversations between companies and far easier cross promotion, without the need to move away from facebook.

There's lot's more to consider and many more questions and considerations to come as the feature is taken up, if indeed it does come for pages, but I'll leave it there for now.

One last thing to mention though, is a concern with the overall subject of the facebook email address. The facebook email offers a visible, external route into the inboxes of it's users and up to 600 million new addresses could be like catnip for spammers. Unless a user has the tightest security settings, so that there profile is invisible to non-friends, there username is visible to anyone. It's certainly possible that these could be scraped by spambots and converted into email addresses to target.

facebook assures it's users that the new messaging will have state of the art spam protection to reduce this. It also prioritises emails from those addresses registered on facebook for a users friends, in their inbox. Any others, say bills or spam that gets through the filters, will go into an 'other' folder. We'll see how effective this is.

I'd love to hear your thoughts around this subject, so if you have any, please leave a comment. Thanks.

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