Commentary

They CAN coexist - independently

Last week at the Email Insider Summit, I have a feeling that our panel’s constant yammering about social networks made more than a few people nervous (except for the Facebook representative). For the time being though, email marketers and developers can rest easy.

The fact is that that email and social networks are neck-and-neck vying for our attention while we’re online – and they both win. It’s not that we “favor” one over the other; rather, both serve their individual purposes. College students generally use Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family, and use email for professional and in-depth interactions. It’s not that one is better than the other; they’re just different.

This distinction brought up (numerous times) the fact that several developers are working on interfaces which would bring together email accounts and social networks alike into one central hub. Uniting all of these networks is an interesting idea. Imagine opening up one web page and viewing all of your emails and Facebook, twitter and myspace updates and messages. It would be like reading a newspaper targeted directly at YOU. Then add in your respective RSS feeds and you would never have to leave that one hub. Right? I’m not convinced. I think the idea is interesting, but I’m not sure if the necessarily decreased functionality within this central website would be worth saving the minute it takes to switch from email accounts to Facebook, and back. I am comfortable with (and even like) separating my various mediated communication and news websites. I have a feeling that others with absurd amounts of online profiles and activity might find this infinitely more helpful than I would.

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If this says anything to email and social network developers it is that these communication formats can live very happily together while still in their respective spheres as long as the functionality is good (blast you Facebook applications!) and the purposes stay unique and necessary.

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