Same Script, Different Cast: How Social Networking Can Learn From E-mail
Facebook’s platform and Google’s OpenSocial — a set of common application programming interfaces for Web-based social network applications — both promise to bring standardization to social messaging. It’s only a matter of time before you can send an e-mail from Hotmail directly to a Facebook user or from MySpace directly to an AOL user.
Possibly more significant is how deliverability and reputation are evolving similarly within social networks as they did within e-mail. Social-networking marketers will have all the same deliverability challenges as in e-mail, only this time the receivers get more user feedback and are building smarter reputation systems from the start.
Already, Facebook uses a combination of implicit and explicit user feedback to build a reputation for applications and decide how many of its news feed notifications actually show up for users. Just because you send a notification to a user’s mini-feed doesn’t mean that all of his or her friends will see it. Facebook looks at how many active users subscribe to your application and how many users block your messages to determine how many messages they’ll let you deliver tomorrow.
Applications with lots of users can send lots of messages. New applications are throttled while they build reputation. Applications that get lots of complaints in various forms are penalized. Does this sound familiar?
From a technical perspective, high-volume senders will need to customize their solution for different social networks. Just because both networks have implemented OpenSocial doesn’t mean that they will work exactly the same way. Yahoo and Hotmail both accept SMTP (simple mail transfer protocol) connections, but sophisticated senders customize the number of IP (Internet protocol) addresses used, number of connections per address, number of messages sent per connection, header content and other factors to optimize delivery for each receiving domain. We can expect to see the same technical optimizations for the various social networks. And just like e-mail, we can expect to see them change frequently.