I was poking around Facebook's Fan Page features the other day and came across something new that they just released. You'll find it on the left-hand navigation of any Facebook Page that you administer, labeled Get more Fans with SMS.
First, definitions: SMS stands for Short Message Service. Basically, it's a fancy term used to describe the standardized system for exchanging text messages between mobile devices.
Second, how does it work? When I clicked on the option, I got this message:
Tell people to text "fan lavarow" to 32665 (FBOOK) from their mobile phones, and they will be added as fans instantly. Standard charges may apply.
When you signed up for Facebook, chances are good that they asked you to enter your mobile phone as an account identifier in addition to your e-mail address. So, Facebook already knows your mobile number, meaning that if you send the text message "fan companyname" to 32665 (Facebook's shortcode), they will associate the phone number with your account and automatically make you a fan of companyname.
Third, what does this all mean? The obvious, immediate benefit to companies with Facebook Pages is an easy, quick method for gaining more connections with an audience unchained from their desktops or laptops. It won't be long before you see Text "FAN COKE" to 32665 (FBOOK) on the sides of Coca-Cola packaging.
Looking ahead even further, I won't be surprised when Facebook offers out-bound SMS marketing features to companies with Fan Pages, meaning that an organization could "push" some form of messaging, offer or coupon to opted-in Fans via text message. Sending SMS messages isn't free, so Facebook could potentially charge for this feature and monetize the service with some sort of set-up or maintenance fees.
The main takeaway here is that this move will add another powerful component to Facebook's marketing toolbox for businesses.