Messaging Madness

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By Jon Fisher (@jmfisher)

Is e-mail destined to go the way of postal mail? While e-mail is nearly ubiquitous and remains a popular form of communication among business users, speculation that new messaging platforms will be an “e-mail killer is percolating.

Older generations of workers are likely to rely on e-mail as their main form of communication, but younger workers favor more instant communication, such as through text or chat features. The latest threat to e-mail is the new Facebook Messaging system that will offer Facebooks half-billion active users an optional e-mail address that will enable people to send or receive messages from Facebook to or from traditional e-mail accounts. While the service sounds appealing from an all-in-one platform perspective, for regulation-heavy industries like pharma, its likely to create more problems than possibilities.

Although a one-stop shop for all of your Web communications may sound appealing, consider the following:

You compromise your brand equity. While you likely dont give much thought to your domain address, it just doesnt look professional to have a Facebook e-mail address. Having your brand name displayed in a messaging queue delivers brand reinforcement while letting recipients know what company is communicating with them.

Communication silos will be difficult to break down. Messages on the new Facebook platform won’t have a traditional subject line and users will not have the ability to send a cc (carbon copy) or bcc (blind carbon copy). You also wont be able to set an “out of office” message, potentially increasing the risk of overlooking time-sensitive issues. This also can create havoc in trying to keep a team or management informed of activities that should be on their radar.

Ability to efficiently and effectively organize communications is at risk. Beyond being difficult to share information with multiple parties, e-mail is organized by sender, not subject line. Other things you cant do with the new Facebook messaging platform: forward e-mail, put them in folders, tag them, or archive them. You cant search or sort them at all, and because email is organized by sender and not subject, finding old messages or following a communication thread is effectively impossible.

Facebook messaging will not facilitate compliance with industry regulations. All written communication such as e-mail must be captured, retained and analyzed in accordance to government regulations. Although all Facebook messages are permanently retained, forever isnt an ideal scenario and it can make for a challenging and costly legal discovery process should the need arise. While regulatory compliance products exist to capture communications, they only work if the user is on the enterprise network. Although companies should have policies in place that prohibit personal devices from accessing enterprise systems, if Facebook messaging takes off, itll create new technology challenges for network managers.

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