Email is far from dead

Laptops and the globeFacebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced in November last year ‘that email is dead’. But there are no signs of the funeral just yet.

While Zuckerberg needed a good headline to promote his channel, the statement was a little bizarre as the success of his service is largely dependent on email updates sent to its subscribers.

Whether your company is using the social networking features of a proprietary intranet package or you are using an external channel, staff and customers invariably like using these channels and find them a useful business asset.

Social networking is not so new
Back in 1997, the main purpose of the very first intranet that I was involved with was to enable staff to exchange best practice, especially for R&D, using a discussion list. It not only did this productively but it created useful new staff relationships. Social networking has been a productive communications tool for a longer time than most people are aware!

Social networking has a useful place in our communications armoury, and it’s strength has to be in discussion. But message lengths need to be more than 140 characters to be of constructive use in business. That’s why LinkedIn’s discussion groups have proven to be so successful.
 
Email for polished communications
But, of course, email has been around for much longer. Today, using external hosted email distribution, it’s possible to create and deliver professional customer and staff newsletters very quickly and cheaply.

You can incorporate text, images, video and sound. You can also monitor whether your audience has clicked on the links and invite feedback. Email newsletters are much better at distributing polished business communications than social networks because they are mostly delivered by mature, feature-rich software.

Surveys by ‘SocialTwist’ and ‘Tell a Friend’ show that email is twice as important as all the social channels put together.  And email marketing continues to be one of the top four or five revenue producing sources for eCommerce websites (according to MarketingSherpa’s 2009 Ecommerce Benchmark Report). It also returns the greatest return on investment.

While social networking tends to remain - exactly that as it’s name implies - mostly social.

In an excellent BBC News website article ‘Clash of the Titans' by Fiona Graham, we learn that Dave Coplin, Head of Microsoft's Envisoneers team, shares the view that both email and social networking can live side by side. “Everything has its place and it's really understanding which is the right tool for the job,” he explained.

Although I am a director of an email distribution business, IndustryMailout.co.uk, I do recognise the benefits of social networking. I also recommend that companies get their email communications right first before pouring valuable resources into social media. In my experience many companies have still not mastered effective internal and external email newsletter communications.

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