Email Vs. Social: Predatory or Symbiotic?

Are you reading this article in the email MediaPost sent you, or from a tweet that you followed? Or from a blog or content site that linked you to it? Are you planning on adding it to your site or blog, or tweeting about it?

Content distribution is critical to any business's success, and it relies on an entire supply chain of people developing, syndicating and monetizing the media. Email is one of the key channels involved. Email is not an "and/or" question, it's "and ... what else?"

When I hear people talk about the demise of email as a communication tool, in favor of social media sites, I usually categorize this as narrow thinking. Email, as I've said many times, is pervasive in our culture and has evolved in how we use it in personal and business communications, and also in terms of what we consume.

The hub and spoke of personal management systems has evolved beyond the days of a paper-based day planner as the central hub, to the use of electronic systems -- computer/laptop or even mobile device, for some. Along with this shift, email and social have changed how we develop communities, how we manage these communities, and the fundamentals of business. Some of these shifts are predatory toward traditional methods of communication and how businesses market and sell their products, and some are symbiotic.



Email and social are symbiotic in many ways. While I do see generational differences in the use of email, there are several truths to email that will not change its value in our culture.

·       Email is the number one business tool!

·       Email will be vital to your education and evolution as a professional.

·       The more money you make, the more email will be vital to your success.

·       Email solves the time/distance effect of direct mail, and social won't challenge this fundamental value in business notification.

·       You'll never be satisfied with one-liners without context or explanation (that is, Twitter replacing notification value and publishing value).

·       I don't believe businesses will ever give up control of the customer lifecycle.

People who make a living in the email space can easily support the value of business-to-consumer communications through email. You can't deny the positive effects of targeting and personalization and controlling some elements of timing customer communications with business interactions. You can't deny the business value of notifications and service to productivity, efficiency and customer service value. You can't deny the value of electronic fulfillment of business exchanges. You can't deny the value of email in business networking events and exchanges. There are so many inherent uses for email that I get bored hearing the talk about its ostensible demise.

What gets me up each day? People talking about the collaborative effects of email with other digital channels, and the true impact of stacking channels to inform business decisions. Next-generation attribution will find many connections between channels, points in time, contextual interactions and optimized media. All will help build and foster experiences with consumers and businesses.

The foundation of any technological innovation in the history of mankind is based on solving "time and distance." Email is no different! It will not go away.

5 comments about "Email Vs. Social: Predatory or Symbiotic?".
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  1. Rufus Dogg from DogWalkBlog, July 19, 2010 at 9:56 a.m.

    Not to worry, what is old is new again! and Email is making a resurgence with the "Social Media Elite" who got the fame and also the annoyances with it.

  2. Rita from FreshAddress, Inc., July 19, 2010 at 10:09 a.m.

    Email can quickly leverage direct mail, telemarketing, print and other forms of ads and connectivity. It is able to cross the globe through time zones and although those who use social media may prefer it, we know they check their email inbox as well and are influenced by the messages it can link to. I strongly agree that 'time and distance' is critical to both marketing efforts and building relationships.

  3. Kurt Johansen from Johansen International, July 19, 2010 at 8:33 p.m.

    Yes David, you are spot on. How can you build a relationship and court people in 160 characters? Email is still King is business communication. Kurt - Australia's Leading Email Marketing Strategist.

  4. Kevin Springer, July 21, 2010 at 9:47 a.m.

    Email is similar to the 30-second TV spot. It will not die or ride off into the sunset, but is more of a spoke in a strategic integrated marketing program. It may not be as powerful as a stand alone as it once was, but it has its place.

  5. Allen Bonde from Offerpop, July 22, 2010 at 2:42 a.m.

    Great topic - and timely with the whole Ben&Jerry's email-newsletter-going-away uproar. Of course Email, Twitter, FB, etc. are all just channels, and history has shown us that when a new one comes along (and substitution economics kicks in) it first flattens the growth of old ones, and in some extreme cases causes an actual decline - think online ads vs newspaper ads.

    As David points out, email has a lot going for it and is unlikely to meet that fate. So I agree that at the macro level email and social are symbiotic. BUT, at the campaign level, all bets are off IMO. Social can just do some things that email can't. And some customers prefer social offers or alerts to those delivered via email.

    What is (still) missing are mainstream tools/platforms/methods for social marketing that are as good as those that have been around for a while for email. With deals like ExactTarget/CoTweet, CC/NetshellMail, and what we are building at Offerpop ( I am optimistic we will get there.


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