The Facebook Other Folder and the Strangers Who Love Me There

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facebook other folder

By Kerry Gorgone, {grow} Contributing Columnist

This is a story about sex, drama, money, and hope. In other words, a typical day in Faceook’s “Other” Folder.

In November of 2010, Facebook started sorting users’ messages for them, funneling communiqués from anyone who wasn’t a friend (or friend of a friend) into a message folder labeled “Other.” The results have been pretty weird.

At the time, there was no public outcry (mostly because no one realized what had happened). For many people, it was a year or more before we discovered the Other folder and saw the assortment of missed connections. Here’s one of mine:

Hi Dear, I like the texture and the color of your eyes. Can we be friends and get to know each other better.. I will hope to hear from you.

If anyone can explain what the “texture of my eyes” is, Facebook message me. I’ll see it when I clean out my Other folder again in six months!
But I had also missed a message from someone at Johnny Cupcakes (one of my favorite brands), wanting my address so they could send a gift after I posted a photo in response to one of Johnny’s Facebook photo challenges. When I stumbled upon the message months later, I was nonplussed, to say the least.

The Bizarro World of the Facebook Other Folder

And while some people miss out on legitimate business opportunities because Facebook hid messages from them (as Mark Schaefer has pointed out), the Other Folder is also the home of some of the most bizarre messages you will ever see.

Hi, I am opening a dental clinic in Serbia …

HALLLLLOOOO you beautiful sexy beast …

I would laak for to be yor friend  …

The exchange on Mark’s Facebook page got me wondering about these “Others.” Who are the people who send messages to complete strangers on Facebook? What can they hope for? Does sending typo riddled form messages to people who’ve never heard of you ever produce an actual result?

In an effort to find some answers, I did the unthinkable.

I replied to some of my Other messages.

Let’s meet the “Others”

A proposition not without risk, given that the vast majority of Other messages fall into one of two categories: spammers seeking money, and strangers trying to get lucky.

I sent a straightforward inquiry to six people who had sent unsolicited messages over the past six months, explaining that I was writing a blog post about people who sent Facebook messages to strangers. The sex seekers weren’t interested in having any exchange that would be fit to print, so I’ll focus on a couple of the “entrepreneurs” here.

First up, Fariz from India. Here’s his original message:

hiiii my name is fariz am from INDIA ,am just 23 am very interesting in charity then i start a charitable society in INDIA (CREDO charitable society )but now our society facing a big financial problems. please if you can any financial helps ? am expecting your reply,, thank u

So, a college “graduator” and fledgling social business owner sent 20 messages to strangers on Facebook (although he did not explain how these 20 were selected), and received 3 replies including mine. Funds raised: zero. But then, he hadn’t invested all that much. Dennis, another aspiring businessman wrote from parts unknown to drum up support for his charity.

Well its not really about writing strangers, yes i do get some response that are positive, and yes i had a few success and i started my none profit org through inspiration from a group of youngster

and i know it may look strange to write to people you have never met and my question to you is how do we make that connection with the write people who we need to give us a push start?

thanks, dennis

After I established my credentials as a blogger, Dennis replied again (and sent me a friend request, which I did not accept). I admire his moxie, but no. Just, no. If previous events have taught us anything, it’s that Facebook is wide open to tweaking its newsfeed algorithm, so why is their system for sorting private messages so obviously flawed?

But as Jon Taffer has been known to say on Spike TV’s Bar Rescue, “I embrace solutions,” so here are some tips for dealing with Facebook Others.

Sex with Strangers

Facebook saves overt sexual overtures to the “Other” folder, the same place it files perfectly appropriate messages from business prospects and acquaintances. Apparently, Facebook, you think I might want to hear from strangers interested in “making dirty, sexy chat with me.” I don’t. Seriously.

Why not look for keywords relating to sexual overtures in messages from non-connections, then funnel those into a  folder labeled “Junk” or “Spam” or “Rated R” or something? It’s a pretty safe bet that very few people want those kinds of messages from people they don’t know (or even people they know, but that’s another issue altogether).

You’re Collecting Mountains of Data: Use It

For some reason, Facebook, you seem to think think that I don’t want to hear from a brand I openly support and frequently post about (like Johnny Cupcakes). But I do. If you track my Likes and comments (and I know you do, because I see the targeted ads), why not use this data for private message filtering? I don’t want to miss messages from a representative of a brand if I’ve engaged with them on their page. Helpful hint: posting to a brand’s page generally means I’m interested in hearing from that brand.

Let’s be Friends

Facebook, you seem to think that I don’t want messages from people I’m not connected with just because we’re not connected. Not necessarily the case. Before I joined MarketingProfs full-time, I taught a graduate course in marketing. Now and then, a former student will send me a message through Facebook, even though we aren’t connected there. It’s months before I see them.

Unless a message contains keywords indicating that it may be inappropriate, or links that raise a red flag that it might be spam, I’d appreciate the chance to review messages myself. This would ensure that legitimate business opportunities reach me, and that I’m able to expand my online connections with people I actually do know personally, but haven’t friended yet.

As long as you’re messing with my newsfeed algorithm, privacy settings, and display, I’d appreciate if you could make some changes that would actually help me, Facebook. Sorting out the “Other” folder would be a fantastic place to start.

Thanks in advance.

And if you haven’t checked your “Other” messages folder in Facebook, you might want to. Or not. What is the most bizarre message you have received?

Kerry O’Shea Gorgone is a writer, lawyer, speaker and educator. She’s also Instructional Design Manager, Enterprise Training, at MarketingProfs. Kerry hosts the weekly Marketing Smarts podcast. Find Kerry on Google+ and Twitter.

 

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