The Wall Street Journal just ran a piece about the evolution of communication technology, chronicling the rise and alleged fall of email to social media. "Email no longer rules," the title reads.
Do you agree that email no longer rules? Tell us why or why not.
"We all still use email, of course," says Jessica E. Vascellaro, the author of the piece. "But email was better suited to the way we used to use the Internet—logging off and on, checking our messages in bursts. Now, we are always connected, whether we are sitting at a desk or on a mobile phone. The always-on connection, in turn, has created a host of new ways to communicate that are much faster than email, and more fun."
Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t all social networks also require logging on to use? Sure, you can set them up to remember your info so you don’t have to log-in every time, but the same could be said for most email services. That’s beside the point though.
It’s fun to look at how communication has evolved, and it’s easy to declare the old medium dead (although to be fair, Vascellaro didn’t exactly go that far). It’s just not the case.
WebProNews recently ran an article about how social media will not replace search, despite plenty of mutterings to the contrary. I will go ahead and declare the same thing about email. Social media will not replace email. Just as it did with search, it may replace it in some (even many) instances, but there is room for both forms of communication. In fact, they do a pretty good job of complimenting each other (for better or for worse).
Reasons Email Isn’t Going Away Anytime Soon
1. People still send hand-written letters via snail mail, even though they could instead make a phone call, send an email, text message, or status update.
2. Nearly all sites on the web that require registration require an email address. Some are starting to integrate social media into this process (through things like Facebook Connect), but that is still a very small fraction, and they typically still allow for email information as well.
3. Email notifies you of updates from all social networks you are a part of (provided your settings are set up that way).
4. We haven’t seen any evidence yet that Google Wave really is the next big thing and will catch on on a large scale.
5. Email is universal, and social networks are not. Nearly everybody on the web (while there are no doubt some exceptions) has an email address. Many places of employment give employees email addresses when they begin working there. Meanwhile, a great deal of them are banning workers from even accessing social networks.
6. There are plenty of people who have no interest in joining social networks. Frequent news stories about security, privacy, and reputation issues do not help convince them.
7. Email is still improving. It hasn’t screeched to a halt with the rise of social media. There is still innovation going on, and integration with social media. Look at how Google is constantly adding new features to Gmail. Look at the new Yahoo Mail.
8. Even social networks themselves recognize the importance of email. Never mind that they update users about community-driven happenings via email. MySpace (still one of the biggest social networks) even launched its own email service recently.
9. More social media use means more email use. Look at these recent findings from Nielsen. The people consuming the largest amount of social media are also the people consuming the largest amount of email.
10. As far as marketing is concerned, email is doing pretty well, as many companies continue to struggle to find the right social media strategy to suit their needs.
Let’s expand on that last one a bit. There have been a significant number of studies released in recent memory, indicating that email marketing is doing quite well. Epsilon shared some findings about how email marketing is driving offline purchases. The same firm also found that email open rates increased for the fourth quarter in a row (up 18% YoY according to the most recent study). Forrester Consulting and ExactTarget found that email marketing is the most popular channel for consumers. Earlier this year, Forrester Research reported that email marketing in the U.S. alone was expected to reach $2 billion by 2014.
Is the email landscape changing? Yes, without a doubt. Social media has become a very large part of the online lives for many Internet users. Earlier this year, social sites were even said to have surpassed email in usage. That said, Facebook has come significantly close to matching Google in terms of unique visitors, but that doesn’t make Google any less important does it? The two can co-exist, and so can email and social media. They are co-existing.
Email marketers are facing new challenges with an increasingly social and mobile web. For tips on embracing this, check out our coverage of a related session from the recent Shop.org summit.
Do you think social networks will replace email? Share your thoughts here.