Recently Facebook migrated its messaging platform to a threading model. Before this change, each message you sent to another party would create a new entry in your mailbox. This produced an inbox experience that was cluttered and hard to navigate. Treating messages as threads of a conversation is one of the features that gave the iPhone its mass appeal, and one that Facebook was smart to adopt. Facebook also combined its chat features with its messaging platform to make it one integrated product. Now if you send someone a chat message and he or she doesn't respond, the chat messages is deposited to your inbox. In essence all communication becomes one contiguous thread over time. The idea of a stand-alone message starts to lose resonance. For those who are socially engaged, the overall conversation starts to take on meaning unto itself, and it starts to develop its own value. It is the sum of its parts, and it reflects larger trends that need to be addressed by social marketing.

This change, brought about by innovators like Apple and Facebook, is a paradigm shift away from the mail-carrier model to a more social web. Traditional mail is sent as individual, dislocated units. I cut my teeth on data-driven marketing at Digital Impact (now Axciom Digital). In those days we were using data points to target consumers and send them highly tailored direct response emails. We measured response and success in terms of open rates and clicks.

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Today's social marketing models require that brands think of messaging differently. It requires that they move away from a push marketing mindset (which is appropriate for other CRM channels) and focus on conversational marketing. The value of a socially targeted message is much more multidimensional. Like push marketing, targeting and segmentation can get you a long way to having your message resonate with your audience. But in the social sphere, the message's value is also based on the conversation that it creates. Successful social messaging creates conversational threads and also spawns new conversational threads. Re-tweeting is a newly invented standard for messaging success.

In the social sphere the message is also valuable in its ability to create public recognition and 1:1 connections with fans and followers. A brand's interaction with its constituents is one of the most valuable brand-building tools it has at its disposal. Because these interactions can be both highly public and tailored to the needs of constituents, they create goodwill that is hard to reproduce in other marketing channels.

The social web has introduced a new level of complexity for marketing messaging. The required standards for developing communication strategies have never been so high. We are proud to help some of the most demanding brands develop just these programs with resounding success.

Elliott Easterling is Co-Founder & Chairman of the Board at RBM. Elliott can be reached at

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