Could social networks replace e-mail?

With explosive growth of social media sites also has been a rise in intra-network communication, a growing alternative to personal e-mail. Our experts debate the effect on marketing.

Sean O’Neal
Chief revenue officer, Datran Media
15 years of experi­ence in marketing and sales

Personal social media communi­cations have already replaced a certain volume of personal e-mail communica­tions. However, an Ipsos study com­missioned by Habeas also found that consumers prefer e-mail as a primary method of personal and business com­munication – and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Advertising across social media, however, has not increased as rapidly but has potential. Anew study from Ball State University and ExactTarget found that 18- to 34-year-olds are more likely to make purchases in response to ads in e-mails, as opposed to ads on social networks.

Today’s social networks have chiefly been critiqued for their inability to reach the business professional and for lacking marketing and monetization opportuni­ties. The good news is companies have begun to help marketers apply those tools they typically leverage within their e-mail marketing campaigns to their social media marketing programs. This is important because marketers who execute campaigns across social net­works want to target relevant audiences and measure their results.

As media channels converge, social networks, e-mail and all complementary media will all look much more alike. That’s good news for advertisers, because whether consumers are around their social media, e-mail or mobile inbox, at the end of the day, they are spending more time around “the inbox.”

Clay McDaniel
Principal and co-founder, Spring Creek Group
More than 10 years of experience

Social network traffic is rapidly replacing e-mail for personal com­munications among a certain group (consumers age 18 to 50). Teens text and IM instead of e-mail, and the older set generally doesn’t generate very much e-mail or social networking traf­fic at this point. And, the rise of social networks hasn’t yet put the slightest dent in the professional inbox.

For the heaviest personal message e-mailers — the “always online” con­sumer — social networking has reached critical mass. Intra-network messaging is definitely replacing a big chunk of friends and-family e-mail. And, Facebook “Status” and Twitter have created an entirely new class of “instant update” communications seemingly overnight.

Trust is driving this shift in personal digital communications. E-mail is inher­ently unfiltered and has almost no cost to the sender. By contrast, the selection and approval process inside social net­works creates a useful first-layer filter that ensures every personal message we receive inside our network has been pre-qualified.

Just as qualified leads are more valu­able and more efficient for a salesper­son, social network messages save time for recipients, because they are trusted from the get-go. And let’s face it: We’re all spending plenty of time in our social network accounts anyway, so often, it’s just easier to send a message there than to switch apps.


McDaniel argues that social networks provide a pre-screened alterna­tive to e-mail. O’Neal points out that while social networks have cut into e-mail, they have been slow to catch up to replicating marketing and monetization opportunities, which is what users respond to. Both note, however, that social messaging has yet to make inroads into business.

Have your say E-mail your view to [email protected]

Related Posts