Is E-Mail Dead? Not So Fast!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

email-tombstone Since 2006, pundits have been predicting the death of e-mail. The word on the street is that people--particularly under 30s--have abandoned e-mail for IM, texting, Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Jim Lodico, author of the Social Media 2.0 blog, summarizes the reasons most often given for e-mail's demise (among them: too slow, takes too much time, too much spam).

But new research suggests it may be too early to give e-mail last rites. In "View from the Social Inbox 2010," Merkle, a customer relations marketing agency, finds that time spent with personal or social e-mail in the fall of 2009 was even with the prior year. "Nearly three-quarters of respondents spent at least 20 minutes a week e-mailing friends and family." What's more, Merkle found that social network users check their inboxes more frequently than those who shun social sites. "Forty-two percent of social networkers check their e-mail account four or more times a day, compared to just 27% of their non-networked counterparts."

Merkle's findings were similar to those reported by The Nielsen Company in "Is Social Media Impacting How Much We Email?" Nielsen also found that social media use makes people consume more e-mail, not less.  In part, that's because you can choose to get an e-mail every time a friend comments on a posting or engages in an activity. And as people make connections though social media, they "may extend those connections to e-mail."

The prediction that social media will kill e-mail reminds me of the premature death notices that accompany nearly every new technology: TV will kill radio, videos will kill movies. Most times, old technologies survive by changing. (Do you want to see Avatar on video at home or in 3-D on a big screen at the theater?)

Communications consultant Flora Novarra, commenting on Lodico's post, makes a succinct case for e-mail's survival. "Would you really want to get your bank statement through your social network? Would you want a tweet from your ex arranging weekend visitation?"

New technologies simply give people more choices.

--Marilynne Rudick

(c) E-WRITE, 2004 - 2010.

Marilynne Rudick and Leslie O'Flahavan are partners in E-WRITE, a training and consulting company that specializes in writing for online readers. Rudick and O'Flahavan are authors of Clear, Correct, Concise E-Mail: A Writing Workbook for Customer Service Agents