Machiavelli wrote that it is "safer" to be feared than loved. The Internet has proven him wrong. Being anything but loved can be very dangerous to a marketer.
Of course, this is all tied in to social media. Being loved has always been good for marketers, but consumers are gaining more control over who can communicate with them. There was never a spam filter over the street-side mailbox or intercepting calls to individual telephones. Email has a higher bar; in part because it's infested with unwanted messaging. But just being relevant and following a few rules is enough to keep most marketers out of spam folders. However, things are about to get tougher.
In November, Facebook announced it would pursue a new messaging service that combines all of a user's message feeds—Facebook messages, emails, SMS, chat, etc.—into a single interface. But, unlike current email, that interface would sort everything into three folders: a junk folder, a friends folder and a third folder for non-junk email that doesn't come from friends and, therefore, may only get checked once a day, in theory.
In practice, that third folder is going to be a black hole for marketing materials. If this catches on, you'll need more than just for customers and top prospects to accept your messages as non-spam—you'll need to get into that friends folder.
King of All Messaging?
I don't think Facebook is going to take over all messaging—although everything the company has done so far turned to gold, so nothing would surprise me. I think users have enough reason to stick with their current messaging tools, so that Facebook messaging will become just another part of the landscape.
But I'm worried its ideas will catch on.
Google, Mozilla, Microsoft and everyone else in the messaging space are copycats. If users decide they prefer seeing messages segregated by Facebook friend status, or something similar, you bet your "Like" button that the third folder will become absolutely ubiquitous in email programs. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg excels at evangelizing new points of connectivity, and getting email as integrated with Facebook as everything else on the Net would be another coup.