Facebook’s premium message service is a step too far for brands

Reports are circulating that Facebook is to trial a paid-for messaging service that lets users directly message Facebook users outside of their friends network for somewhere in the range of $1-15.

Ronan Shields

The efforts are very much in their nascent phase and Facebook claims the idea is to “prevent spam” pointing towards it being positioned as a potential marketing tool. Despite reports that this is a utility allowing ‘normal’ users to privately message account holders with ‘celebrity staus’.

I’m sure this is being trialled with the best will in the world and I’m sure Facebook will make significant strides in fine-tuning the targeting capability.

However, I cannot stress enough how potentially damaging the scheme is. Marketing Week has chronicled at length the pressures Facebook now faces to monetise its one billion-plus audience since floating on the NASDAQ.

And with this trial, I think the investor pressure is beginning to show. The powers that be at Menlo Park could arguably be seen to be forgetting what it was that made it popular in the first place.

This accusation that has been made in the past but I’d argue that a brand crossing the threshold of a Facebook user’s private messaging box is just a bridge too far.

Additionally, I’d hope Facebook will pay strict attention to frequency-capping the number of times a Facebook account holder can be contacted by those outside of their network.

After all, one of the key attractions of Facebook is it being a central hub to keep contact with all your friends (just like your Hotmail account used to be) without having to sift through all those irrelevant emails from deposed Nigerian princes after your bank account number.

My belief is that attempting to roll out such services Facebook could find itself going the way of MySpace. Lest we forget, the social sector of the internet worldwide web is a veritable graveyard filled by once all conquering brands boasting the likes of Bebo and MySpace. Even the almighty Apple and Google have failed in this sector – remember Ping anyone?

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