This post previously appeared on LinkedIn Pulse.
“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 the actual person speaking on stage. (Alright, I can’t see your hands, but I know they’re in the air.) It’s actually insulting to the person giving the presentation, but that’s conference etiquette these days. As long as you’re there, that’s apparently all that counts.
There is a positive in all of this, 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 an industry alive and thriving.
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 narrative is pretty narrow-minded, blindly pointing to social media and millennials as the reasons email will one day inhabit a digital grave alongside Friendster and Yahoo Instant Messenger.
Here’s why that mindset is completely stupid:
The inbox is personal.
Regardless of whether it’s work or personal life, your inbox is truly your personal mailbox for the world, which is why when you get spam or unwanted email that clutter up your inbox flow, you’re pissed!
I’ve always said that checking your inbox is like opening your front door. When you see a familiar face, you’re more than happy to welcome them in. When that face is unfamiliar and you get the feeling your privacy has been invaded, it’s easy to slam the door and stew on how they got directions to your house to begin with.
Whether it’s messy with emails from a decade ago or tidy and neat with folders, your inbox is your digital house…and it’s still freaking awesome.
Replying and forwarding emails still works.
Is there any other better way to be social than to reply to the person/sender that sent you a great email or forward that great email to another person because you found value in what you were sent ? It’s the grandfather of retweeting, favoriting, 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 those Candy Crush invites on Facebook.
It’s ideal for the smartphone generation.
In August of 2014, Hubspot assembled some great stats from around the web on smartphone email usage. The one that really stood out to me: 74% of smartphone owners use their device to check their email. These are the same phones that contain Twitter and Facebook apps, yet people are still obsessed with checking email. I haven’t heard any millennials claim that email isn’t cool yet, so I think we’re out of the woods. Phew.
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, regardless of whether it’s from a marketer or your best friend?
If I’m a brand and 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.
Email being such a personal medium helps counteract that. By giving someone your email address, you’re inviting them into the most important wing of your digital house. That is the ultimate display of online trust which is why companies like the one I work for exist. Our industry is in a constant mode of self-policing and improvement because of that very responsibility to help reputable senders reach those who want to get email from them.
I like Facebook and LinkedIn, love Twitter, and abandoned Google Plus a long time ago. 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.