People have quickly become comfortable communicating through social Web sites, such as MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn. It’s impossible to say that our increased usage of social media hasn’t had an impact on e-mail communication.
However, rather than rush to the assumption that social media is killing e-mail, marketers should instead consider the principles driving interest in social media. They may discover that not only is there still a place for e-mail, but also an opportunity to leverage social media within their marketing programs.
Social networking sites come in all shapes and sizes, from flashy networks like MySpace to business-oriented networking sites, such as LinkedIn. Whatever the network, the prevailing ideas behind the success of these social sites are user control and self-expression – who the user connects with (or doesn’t connect with), when they choose to communicate, what information they select to see and how they elect to present themselves.
Today’s younger generation is the single best predictor of future behaviors. And right now they are leveraging multiple social Web sites: MySpace and Facebook to chat with friends, Evite to send party invitations and LinkedIn to stay front and center for new business relationships. E-mail for these users has become a tool used strictly for the purpose of collecting business information – special offers, promotions and business information.
Both LinkedIn and Facebook are great examples of the ways that people are leveraging social media for their business needs. I regularly receive messages through my LinkedIn contacts about new ventures, Q&A on industry-related topics and new business opportunities. I’ll receive the same kinds of messages through my Facebook account.
Social sites like LinkedIn also allow you to keep track of your extended network. Updating colleagues around the world about your new job no longer requires e-mail, only a mere update to your profile.
So what does this mean to e-mail marketers? As we increase our usage of social networks, our use of e-mail will inevitably decline, reducing the success of e-mail marketing campaigns. Marketers need to take the time to understand what sites their users are comfortable in and then evaluate marketing opportunities in those spaces.
This doesn’t mean e-mail is dead. Instead, marketers will be forced to think more strategically about their e-mail marketing programs, and then develop more segmented, relevant and personalized messages.