Of late, the world of web marketing has been abuzz with rumours about Facebook’s imminent announcement of its brand new email client for its users. Essentially, the story goes, they’re going to open up their existing service, which presently only allows emails between Facebook users, and allow people to send and receive without even having to open up another window. Heaven forefend any of us have to suffer that hardship.

Reportage of this ranges between it being the death of Gmail (and all other non Zuckerberg systems), the death of spam, or just a total non event. Of course, the truth will likely be somewhere in between. What we’ll probably see is a more user friendly email client that they one that Facebook has now, which isn’t terribly good, that can send and receive email from both friends on Facebook and contacts outside, too.  Facebook are hoping that people will adopt this as their go-to email client, as they can now get all their communication at one point, rather than some in the regular email, some in Facebook, and so forth. Quite where this leaves Twitter’s direct messages remains to be seen.

Now, the part that will be of interests to email marketers is the compatibility of the client to current email standards; in other words, will email templates designed to work with Google, Yahoo or Hotmail also render correctly in the new Facebook client? Will your email campaign management system be able to recognise a new client successfully? Will Mark Zuckerberg decide that the best way to take the market is to be as compatible as possible, or will he follow Steve Jobs’ lead and try to bend the market to his will, by forcing people to adapt to what he has decided is the best way of receiving mail?

Again, it’s likely to be somewhere in between. Marketing and communications arms should be prepared to make some changes to their present design, but will probably not have to rip everything up and start again. Testing email delivery, as we’ve talked about before, will be important.

Additionally, you should consider adding a ‘change email address’ link to your mailing list signup, and also in the body of any emails you send out – you don’t want to lose contact with your customers and clients if they decide to migrate en masse to Facebook.

Until things become clearer, though, we’ll just have to wait; there will almost certainly be some surprises, and if not immediately, then in the future. One thing is for certain – Facebook wants email functionality, and it’s playing for keeps.

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