When Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg predicted the death of email back in November 2011, due to the social networking site’s new instant messaging service, a flurry of reaction articles appeared both lauding and mocking his prediction.
However, the question still remains. With BBM, Twitter, Facebook, Skype, Whatsapp and Viber to name but a few ways of communicating, can email really keep up? Do we still need a medium of communication that was developed in 1971, or are we vainly clinging on to technology that is vastly outdated?
Happily, the answer appears to be ‘Email is fine, stop worrying about it.’ Despite these gloomy predictions, email, and email marketing, is still thriving – and here’s why:
“Social media, and the various messaging functions available on it, are seen as a threat, but email can do things that social media can’t,” explains Econsultancy’s Graham Charlton. “It’s reliable, measurable, and provides a demonstrable return on investment. As long as it continues to do this, it will be a relevant channel. It allows brands to build a one-on-one relationship with a consumer in a way that social media cannot, and it can be tested and tweaked to optimise the effectiveness of messaging. The UK email market is alive and well, and continues to grow year on year – it was worth £388m in 2011, up 15% on 2010, and has grown steadily over the last 8 years.”
So far, so good. Email looks like that it’s not only managing to hold its own, but it’s thriving in a fiercely competitive environment. Even so, why has it received so much negative press recently?
“I think people have been saying ’email is dead’ for a while now, partly because it because it makes for a nice, bold headline, but there are some underlying trends which could ‘threaten’ email,” warns Graham. “This is the growing use of social media for communication, and the belief that the younger generation will eventually abandon email in favour of social media. In a recent email trends survey by Econsultancy, 69% of marketers said they believe that young people are abandoning email as a primary channel. However, the same survey found that the majority (60%) of their clients who use them for email are increasing their email usage.”
Well, here’s a sobering thought – could the innocent schoolchildren that we see every day be the people who’ll finally put email out of business? Brought up on a diet of BBM, Facebook and Twitter, there’s a very real possibility they’ll see email as a slightly-too formal method of dropping a client or employee a line. Email has to stay fresh in order to engage more fans – but how can it do this? Graham suggests that rather than try to fight social media, email should embrace it…
“Email can use social media to its advantage,” he explains. “For instance, by adding social sharing buttons, which can mean emails are spread beyond the subscriber list. Email marketing will continue, but it will have to evolve to fit into the changing times by moving from the ‘load and blast’ approach, to a ‘focus on relevant one-to-one communications’ approach. The coming years will see email evolve even further, to fit into the growth of social.”
It would appear that email and social are always going to have a rocky relationship that will need to be carefully monitored; both will have to embrace the other, no matter how awkwardly, in order to carry on engaging potential customers. However, despite social media’s ability to woo internet users into its sticky snare, email’s reputation as reliable, straightforward, and, above all, suitable for business use, has ensured it’s doing fine – for now.
Vicky Anscombe is an Online PR and Social Media Consultant at www.further.co.uk. Feel free to thank her for her contribution to this blog and join her on Twitter at is @vickyanscombe.