“The inbox is the new social network for content companies.” — Ben Koo, Bloguin
Raise your hand if you’ve ever been to a conference/speaking gig/event where you see more people looking at their laptops or phones than you do the actual person speaking on stage. (Alright, I can’t see your hands but I know they’re in the air.) If we’re being honest here, it’s actually pretty insulting to the person giving the presentation but that’s conference etiquette now. As long as you’re there, that’s all that counts.
There is a positive though. When I see these people, I have one resounding thought: those self-absorbed folks that are too busy to listen to someone trying to educate them are helping keep companies like Dyn, Mill33, ConstantContact and others alive and thriving.
Another group that is? Everyone checking their mobile phones 24/7, especially 40.8% of Americans, 30% of Europeans, 36% of Canadians and 57% of the Japanese.*
How? Why? They are checking their email, the original form of social media.
I have read enough ’email is dead’ posts to last the rest of my life and for the most part, that meme is pretty narrow-minded, blindly pointing to social media and younger media consumers as the main reasons email will soon inhabit a digital grave alongside Friendster and Yahoo Instant Messenger.
If you really think about it, email is the original form of social media for several reasons:
The inbox is personal
Regardless of whether it’s work or personal life, your inbox is truly your personal mailbox for the world. When companies send spam or otherwise clutter up your flow, you’re pissed.
I’ve always said the inbox is like your front door. When you see a familiar face knocking, you’re more than happy to welcome them. When it’s unfamiliar and feels like someone is invading your privacy, it’s easy to slam the door and stew on how they got directions to your house.
Messy with emails from 10 years ago or tidy and neat with folders, the inbox is your digital house…and it’s freaking awesome.
Reply and forwarding emails still works
Is there any other better way to be social than to reply to the person/sender that sent you the email or forward to another person because you found value in what you were sent ? It’s the grandfather of retweeting and liking! Want to include several people? Go nuts…but be careful of being ‘that’ person that revives the tradition of chain mail, the equivalent of a Farmville invite on Facebook.
You can opt out of conversations
Like someone offending you with a bad joke at a social gathering, your option is a simple one: walk away. In email, you can do the same thing with marketing emails by unsubscribing. If the offender is really pissing you off and doesn’t provide a simple opt-out mechanism, hit that SPAM button and hit ’em where it hurts.
Email is the best kind of social media
One of the definitions of social is “Spent in or marked by friendly relations or companionship.” Isn’t that the idea of getting a great email to begin with, regardless of whether it’s from a marketer or your best friend?
I would even argue that email is the best kind of social media. If I post something on Twitter or Facebook at 9 AM and the ideal user I’m trying to reach doesn’t happen to check their feed until 2 PM, I’ve lost the opportunity to be right in front of their eyes unless their friends/following number is extremely low or if they’re seeking out my specific messages.
That aforementioned comment about email being personal helps counteract that. By giving someone your email address, you’re inviting them into an inhabited wing of your digital house. That is the best kind of trust which is why companies like ours exist: to help marketers and brands sending transactional email to get the right kind of opt-in messages to where they are supposed to go. Our industry is in a constant self-policing and improvement stage because of that very responsibility.
I like Facebook and LinkedIn, love Twitter and still am on the fence about Google Plus. But if it comes to a favorite kind of social media, I will always go back to the one I’ve used since I was a college freshman in 1996 when I got my first address: email.
*comScore 2012 Mobile Future In Focus report