Facebook, Twitter And Yammer Still Subservient To Email

Fueled by the "Feed Me: Bite Size Info for a Hungry Internet" panel last week at SXSW, several bloggers and reporters joined a discussion pondering whether social media, news feeds and lifestreaming are replacing traditional email. "We are all in the process of creating e-mail 2.0," David Sacks, founder of business social network Yammer said, according to the BBC.

To be sure, social media services like Twitter, Yammer and Facebook are creating new value and interactions. Utility often overlaps and extends beyond email.

But are these social media services replacing email? That notion, despite its propensity to resurface every couple of months, is highly misguided.

To start, MG Siegler at Venture Beat was on to something when he wrote: "A lot of these services even look a lot like email."



Now, let's go beyond looks and remind all the email naysayers that every social media service in existence defaults to email. Every single one! That includes account creation, service notifications and core member communications. In fact, email is often the most favored channel to drive engagement in social networks, particularly with the most disloyal users. Why? Because when all else fails, email is the default, most reliable channel to communicate. Email represents a person's online identity more than any social network user profile, and I don't see that fact changing anytime soon.

But what about kids and teens? They dislike email, and they represent the future, right? Wrong. Email-is-dead proponents love to point out that kids and teens don't like email. Even if there is some truth to that, younger people tend to lose that bias upon entering the working world -- and fast. They also lose the bias as soon as they wish to engage in any number of online services and transactions, like banking or e-commerce. Plain vanilla email is the default in those places, among many others.

And speaking of business, I experiment with and leverage many social networks to build relationships with my start-up's customers. Such networks deliver a lot of value today, and hold great promise for the future. But guess what our most important communication channel is, by far? Email.

By definition, social media networks are not replacing email. Emerging social networks may introduce new and tremendous value, but they are subservient to email. As I wrote a full year ago, email is the ultimate social network. And it remains so.

One year from now, will email be any less significant? I don't think so. What's your bet?

9 comments about "Facebook, Twitter And Yammer Still Subservient To Email".
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  1. Lyndsey Patterson from Concur Technologies, Inc., March 20, 2009 at 2:01 p.m.

    Well of course. That's why Google places ads there. :)

  2. Mike Patterson from WIP, Inc., March 20, 2009 at 2:13 p.m.

    Interesting post Max and I agree, email will never die, it will just evolve and serve a different purpose. People were predicting the death of retail when the world wide web showed up but it didn't die, it just had to change.

    I think however, people will begin to NOT use email for certain purposes simply because other methods now maturing are easier and better suited for certain communications. Friend-to-friend email is being replaced in large part by Facebook communications and we are seeing some one-to-many communications moving toward a Twitter-type paradigm.

    Email will never die, it will just evolve, kinda like all of us huh?

  3. The digital Hobo from, March 20, 2009 at 2:26 p.m.

    Kids don't like to eat their veggies either, but they learn to.

  4. Callie O farrell from The Really Simple Partnership, March 20, 2009 at 2:32 p.m.

    I see the email focus as being my personal portal where all my information comes back to. Its the one feed I have continuously open.

  5. Thom Kennon from Free Radicals, March 20, 2009 at 3:36 p.m.

    Good piece, Max, well argued. But, this only really looks at one side of email's role in the marketing mix (current and future) which is as a service channel.

    When we consider its role as an acquisition or first point of engagement channel, that certainly is "Taps" we hear mournfully playing amongst the din of media and messaging.

    Except, as you critically note without saying, when combined within the context of social or more trusted media, like a tell a friend referral or recommender environments moments. I think emails future will also be how it is adapted to IM, from a functional and directional standpoint, and to mobility once all those teens have smart phones with webmail or their Outlooks synched up.

  6. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, March 20, 2009 at 4:07 p.m.

    Email is the most personal of all electronic communications. If you are my real friend who should receive a message that is not written to be shared with a community, I will email you. If I have a work directive for you, although it may not be a secret, I will send you or the people involved an email. If I want to send you a complete thought, I will email you. You get the picture. So, Max, you hit the target again.

  7. Kurt Johansen from Johansen International, March 23, 2009 at 10:43 p.m.

    Love your work Max. Email will be there when all others have changed, morphed and finished their life cycle.

    The first thing we get on-line is an email address. How we access other people's email addresses may change but we still need to email.

    Australia's Email Marketing Guru

  8. Dustin Jacobsen from Barkley, March 24, 2009 at 12:15 a.m.

    what is your take on the recent Nieslen article about how personal email is now 4th, behind blogs?

    For millenials in particular, mobile (sms) and sites like Facebook seem to more relevant than email.

    Social Networks & Blogs Now 4th Most Popular Online Activity, Ahead of Personal Email, Nielsen Reports:

  9. Max Kalehoff from MAK, March 24, 2009 at 10:40 a.m.

    @Dustin Jacobsen: I believe that Neilsen Netratings' reporting of email is based on tracking of visits to email services that work via browswers, i.e., Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, etc. I don't its reporting of email usage includes email-software clients, like Outlook or Entourage, which are very significant.

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