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Monday, November 12, 2007

email Vs. The World

I follow a couple of the MediaPost blogs and find their posts to be informative and thoughtful. In the Email Insider post this week, Bill McCloskey contradicts another greatly exaggerated story of email's demise. In this instance, the challenger is social network sites (specifically facebook) and the result is that email remains the champion of discourse and communication.

I disagree.

That is not to say that I don't think email is valuable or that I believe it's going to be eliminated as a channel next year. But I think that marketers that work in the email space sometimes have a blindspot for the limitations of email.

As was mentioned in the comments of his post, the younger generation of Internet users are relying less and less on email. I think there are a few reasons for that.

I'll draw heavily on my personal experience here. When I am at work, I use email for messages addressed specifically to me from people I work with. Email is useful for me to get information, confirmation, give updates, and get stuff done. Email is a silo. It's not where I keep my contacts, those are in LinkedIn. It's not where I keep my calendar, my company uses an online service. It's not where I prefer to get content, I use Google Reader for RSS feeds.
Email is for discrete messages that I can act on in relation to the work I have to do. Any other information that I receive through my Inbox is either already on the Web (hopefully with an RSS feed) or it's stuck in my Inbox. If I'm not carrying my inbox on my hip, then I don't have access to anything in there. I would much prefer to choose where and how I access my information.

Now, I won't disagree that many facebook groups are under-used. But I think that is more a matter of most people still being in the early adoption phase of their relationships with social networks. They haven't been around anywhere near as long as email, therefore it's more familiar and convenient for people to use the channels they know. Most social media are still in the early adoption stage. There is still a trepidation that must be overcome when posting on a social network, especially if it's an open group.

But, social networks offer something that email doesn't. I specifically chose to use facebook because allows me to consolidate. I can use their applications to pull the information I want to my profile. This means that rather than taking time out of my day for many things, I can spend time in one location for many things. This point is significant to me because I think it's how email is being used by many people today.

My personal opinion is that emphasis is shifting and email will need to re-invent itself for the future of the Internet. (Which, I think it will do.)