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Allyson Kapin 6 min read

The Email Wars

In the battle to win the war to become a one-stop channel for all your communications, Facebook is launching its new messaging service. Will it impact nonprofits?  Yes. To understand why, first you need to understand exactly what Facebook Messaging is attempting to do.

It’s “NOT email, email’s too formal,” said Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, who thought of the idea after having a conversation with a teenager who said that email was too slow and official.

But that’s not entirely true. It’s email, SMS, and instant messaging all tied into one and it’s interoperable with most email systems. Facebook users will have an email account yourname@facebook.com. Yay, just what we all need another email address, Bonus though - for the first time, users will be able to send emails to people outside of Facebook.

Some early adopters in the space are quite excited about this announcement because they think it will make email more social and be easier to manage. If Facebook is able to pull this off (I have my reservations that they can do this on a mass level and kill Gmail and other email clients, though they claim that is not their goal), it presents great challenges to nonprofits who rely on email for online fundraising and activism.

  1. Will nonprofits that run Facebook Fanpages and Groups get a Facebook email address? This remains unclear as of this blog post.
  2. Facebook email will have NO SUBJECT LINES. Nonprofits can forget about doing A/B testing and grabbing their base’s attention with subject lines about critical campaigns. It will only have a from and to line. -1 in my book.
  3. Facebook users will filter messages via sorting their “real friends” and people who they don’t really care to hear from via three folders – “Main”, “Friends”, and “Junk.” The messages sent by “real friends” will be prioritized over the other email messages, which may or not ever get read.
    Do you think Facebook users will consider nonprofits real friends? Or will users consider it junk?
  4. Spam. No platform is immune from spam. "If a spam link gets through your email and you click on it and it sends itself to your "friends" while infecting your machine (something that happens pretty often) then it is going to have the chance to get everywhere – not just onto computers where you view a status update, but on PCs and phones," according to the Technology Blog over at The Guardian.
  5. If Facebook feels you are abusing the new messaging system, you will get kicked off. So far Facebook has not disclosed how many messages or file sizes is too much, so get your crystal balls out. Or if you have a talent for mind reading, now would be the time to use it.
  6. How much should nonprofits invest in proprietary messaging platforms – especially ones that force users to grant them a royalty-free license to use your content, photos, videos and anything that you post on or in connection with Facebook?
  7. If users flock to this new system and stop using their current email addresses, it will be tough for nonprofits to get their subscribers to update their addresses.

While I think Facebook’s new messaging platform has potential and certainly helps address Zuckerberg’s fascination into how teens communicate, there are some clear challenges for nonprofits. My advice? Test the waters and tread lightly. Most importantly, don’t run out and abandon your email outreach and tested strategies. Nonprofits are expected to raise at least 40% of their online fundraising for the entire year next month. That’s not about to change anytime soon.

What do you think of Facebook's new messaging platform and it's implications on nonprofits?


Allyson Kapin

Allyson has been named one of "Top Tech Titans" by the Washingtonian, one of the Most Influential Women In Tech by Fast Company, and one of the top 30 women entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter by Forbes for her leadership role in technology and social media. As Founding Partner of Rad Campaign, she leads the firm's client and online strategic services. For over a decade Allyson has helped non-profit organizations and political campaigns create dynamic and award-winning websites and online marketing and recruitment campaigns. She works side-by-side with her clients to meet their web needs and maximize their online effectiveness to create real world impact.