Email Is Social And Is Here To Stay

by Tink Taylor

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The above video is a portion of a talk given by Clara Shih, CEO of Hearsay Labs and author of “The Facebook Era”, who was speaking at a recent Enterprise 2.0 conference in San Francisco

Shih asserts that email is being taken over by social technologies (she mainly focuses on Facebook and the iPhone), especially amongst younger generations.

There is nothing particular revolutionary or groundbreaking here, the growth of Facebook and other social networks is hardly news and I think most marketers agree that social media marketing is becoming important.

Her comments on email and its demise are, again, not anything we haven’t heard before. But, I think Shih’s reasons for its demise are interesting, however this does raise some points for discussion:

Email is social

In many ways, email is the original social technology. Email has always allowed groups of people to communicate and for users to share content with their friends or colleagues.

Extending this one-to-one or one-to-many concept from email into other social media channels isn’t difficult, and in fact email has a number of big benefits that elevate its position

Email isn’t going anywhere

Email has big advantages and these are unlikely to diminish. The main one is its ubiquity. Email is a tried and tested platform; the vast majority of us have an email account (probably more than one) and use it frequently. This is in stark contrast to social networks. Whilst increasing numbers of people are participating on social networks, there isn’t one centralised platform – messages need to be distributed across different networks to reach as many people as possible.

Email, by contrast is an open protocol, meaning that it can be used by different software or platforms. If anything, open technologies like Google Wave will pose a bigger threat to email than social networks [you can read my thoughts on this here…].

So, if we come back to the issue of distribution of content across dispersed networks, Email still has a big part to play. Whilst brands can do some of this initial distribution themselves (using Twitter profiles or Facebook fan pages) it is far more effective if it comes from the consumer (or prosumer)…

Email + social media = powerful marketing

This nicely brings us onto integration. If email remains the best way to get a message out to an audience because of its ubiquity, including social media bookmarking links within these messages and encouraging recipients to tweet or share the content on Facebook or Twitter et. al. is a great way to build up distributed content on social media channels.

And consumers are more likely to share email addresses with brands than information about social media. A recent study from Pontiflex found that only 12% of online adults said they’d be willing to provide social media information (like a Twitter handle or Facebook name) to marketers online, while 96% of those surveyed had provided their email to brands to receive special promotions or more information.

This is not a ‘them and us’ discussion, but we need to be aware of when, where and how consumers like to use the different communication methods at their disposal. Marketers that are really excelling in this exciting new digital world are those that are able to link up different marketing tactics and strategies across all marketing channels.