I think it's exciting to consider the ways in which email is still the killer app. Obviously when you work for a company that focuses on email you have a vested interest in the idea that email is not dead. But I think both research and common sense back me up. Here are four reasons to stay bullish on email:
Kids do use email. It seems like every few days or so someone releases a study showing that anyone under 25 is only using for the Internet for social networking and gaming. But there is plenty of data to the contrary, including the Pew study showing that email and search are the top Internet activities across all age groups.
Social networks run on email. Every social network requires an email address to set up a profile. Why? Because email is vital to the running of the network. It's how they send members information and it's also how they grow. Friends emailing friends not on the network to encourage them to join is a big part of how new social networks gain traction. As a result, social networks are among the largest senders of legitimate mail. It's unlikely that this will always be the case. But I think email will continue to be the lifeblood of social networks for the intermediate future.
Some messages are better suited to email. In my view, this would include messages to temporary, medium-sized groups (i.e., you want to send a message to just three people working on one part of a project with you). This kind of work is easier to do in email. In fact, much of business is still run on email for a reason: it's still a great way to convey information both quickly and thoroughly.
Email is more secure than the current alternatives. Right now, alternative messaging platforms are difficult to secure to the level of email. If you need to send a business message to people outside your company in industries where legislation like HIPPA or Sarbanes-Oxley is a consideration, then you need email. Many companies in highly regulated industries still don't allow the relatively dowdy instant messaging platform, even though it can be secured. For example, Ameriprise Financial does not allow its network of financial planners to use any IM platform -- even to communicate with friends and family -- because of security and regulatory issues. Many industries will change at a much slower pace than the technology that surrounds them.
So what does the future look like? I'm focused on two big trends that I think will dominate the thinking of anyone who cares about all forms of electronic messaging.
The first is the move toward a newly balanced communication diet. I do think people will move away from email for certain types of messages and toward Twitter, IM and social networks instead. Of course this has been happening already, we just don't always notice. Think about blogs. How many of us send email messages to a large group of friends and family to tell them about our fabulous vacation? We don't have to. We have a blog that they are all subscribed to.
The second, and to me more interesting change, is going to be on the technology side. You are going to see applications -- both within existing services and as part of new offerings -- that merge email and social network messaging into the same interface in a new way. Great examples of this are Yahoo's recent changes and the Mozilla Raindrop project.
And what does this mean for marketers? Simple. They need to keep doing what really works when it comes to connecting with customers:
creating awesome experiences. The platform on which these experiences happen will change. But a tweet about a new product that the recipient doesn't need is going to be just as
uninteresting as the same message sent by email. By staying focused on creating value for subscribers, marketers will come out on top, even when the ground underneath them continues to shift.