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What If Facebook Is Rolling Out an Email System?

Facebook is making an announcement on Wednesday that is widely assumed to be about its mobile strategy: either it will roll out a mobile phone or announce a deep integration with a service provider such as Skype. So says conventional wisdom. There are also a number of other theories about what it may unveil, ranging from more donations to charity to a Places platform to - yes - a Facebook email system.

Earlier this year, news broke about an email system, codenamed Project Titan, that Facebook was developing. According to various accounts, it was described as an actual mail system compliant with POP3/IMAP and SMTP. Users would receive a @facebook.com address.

Given Facebook's size - at 500 million and counting - an @facebook.com has the potential to devastate email marketing campaigns, Blue Sky Factory wrote when details about Project Titan first came to light.  "Deliverability will go out the window. Open rates will drop to near zero. Your email won't even get to users, much less get read." In short, it will be the first mass-user email platform that is whitelist-based, Blue Sky Factory said.

On the other hand Project Titan could be a huge boom for brands already established on Facebook.  "The positive aspects are that any brand that does manage to gain access into the social bubble finds virtually unlimited goodwill and enthusiastic response," wrote Benchmark Email. "Once the connection is successfully established between marketer and Facebooker, it would be tantamount to being named a part of the family."

Integrating the Two

Chances are, if buzz and hype are to be any measure, Facebook's announcement will focus on a new mobile strategy - a story in of itself, depending on the details. But the specter of a @facebook.com service should spur email marketers to continue their push to integrate social media and email.

To nudge firms along this path, CoTweet and ExactTarget, in their latest report, The Collaborative Future, offer 12 tips to integrate these channels.

  1. Promote Facebook games, applications, and competitions in email and on Twitter.
  2. Feature winners of Facebook competitions in your email newsletter.
  3. Tweet about exclusive content that’s only available to email subscribers.
  4. Promote exclusive deals on Facebook and Twitter, but make it only available to email subscribers.
  5. Post links to web versions of your best emails on Facebook and Twitter. Include Like and Follow buttons in email newsletters and promotions.
  6. Include links to your Twitter and Facebook pages in email newsletters.
  7. Collect email addresses at the point of conversion for consumers who link to your site from Facebook and Twitter.
  8. Create an email segment containing Twitter Followers and provide them with additional "insider information" through email.
  9. Include questions posted on Twitter and Facebook in your emails, and then answer them.
  10. Encourage email subscribers to post questions on Facebook and/or Twitter.
  11. Host videos on your Facebook page.
  12. Include links in your emails and post links on Twitter.

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