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First Look at Facebook Messages

Facebook's move to expand its purview into email, chat and instant messages will add another wrinkle to banks' social media initiatives.

Facebook has posted a YouTube video explaining how its new Messages offering, launched yesterday, works.

Facebook says this product isn't email, but "it allows people who do use email to connect with the rest of us." The new feature creates a "social inbox" that contains messages from friends. Messages will be grouped by sender, whether the sender uses chat, instant message or email.

Why should banks care? According to Facebook, it has 500 million active users. If this new feature catches on, heavy Facebook users will be reading messages from friends first and from others, possibly never. Banks may want to find a way to to get customers to "friend" them so that their offers and marketing messages get read.

But Joel Seligstein, engineering manager in charge of Messages, told TechCrunch in an interview that the new Facebook product is focused on personal communication, and business communications such as bank statements should remain in email. "We found there is kind of a duality there, and they're both extremely useful so we don't see them going away any time soon," he said. It remains to be seen where communications that are not strictly personal or business, such as newsletters, will fall, he said.

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