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Is Social Media Driving E-mail to an Early Grave?

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August 23, 2011

Is Social Media Driving E-mail to an Early Grave?

By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor

Are the days of e-mail communications coming to an end? Social media consultants are starting to preach that the end to e-mail is on the horizon as corporate leaders are encouraging employees to only communicate through their preferred social media channel. But, is this thinking premature?

According to this Fox Business piece, the market for the hosted Exchange e-mail market is alive and well. E-mail communications are still a primary business tool, even as social media communications continue to increase. Why? It is difficult to endorse tweets in favor of e-mail messages for group or one-to-one business correspondence.

We’ve all seen them – professionals we follow will post a tweet that is really only intended for one person. Yet, we inevitably waste a few seconds reading that post because we respect the one who created the tweet. From that point on, we’re cautious.

For those of us who rely heavily on e-mail professionally, the idea that it is on the downhill slide is laughable. In all reality, to suggest that e-mail no longer plays an important part in communications is to ignore the role e-mail can play in driving social media initiatives. It also suggests that one demographic is the leading indicator for all others – a shortsighted approach at best.

Consider a few recent Pew (News - Alert) studies on this topic. One social media consultant in New York, Jacob Kramer-Duffield, referred to a November 2010 Pew Internet & American Life Project commentary that cited a Pew study on teens. The commentary by Amanda Lenhart highlighted that the study found only 11 percent of teens in 2009 relied on e-mail communication with their friends. This finding was enough to label e-mail a dying medium.

A more recent Pew study, however, suggests a different story. Released this past week, the latest study shows that e-mail continues to be tied with search as the most popular online activity. Let me reiterate – e-mail is as popular as online search! More than 90 percent of Internet users claim to use e-mail and more than 61 percent do on a daily basis.

Surprisingly, the numbers are even higher for the youngest adults – those who were teens not so long ago. The Pew study shows that 94 percent of those between the ages of 18 (still a teen) and 29 send or read e-mail, and 64 percent are doing it on a typical day.

The need for e-mail communications is still very much alive. This medium remains the most effective way to reach customers as it allows for private, transactional messages. Plus, it provides an unmatched ability to leverage specific data so you can identify and engage your brand advocates, encourage repeat purchases and increase margins.

For the young, social media still may be the preferred method of communications, but it doesn’t mean that e-mail is dead. It simply means that these individuals haven’t identified a need for focused communications. Given some time, maturity and a job, however, that is likely to change. 

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Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf

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