Will Social Media Marketing Bring the End of the Email Era?

A 2009 article in The Wallstreet Journal proclaimed triumphantly that “The Email Era” had officially come to an end. The article cited the rise of social media siteEnd of the Email Era?s like Twitter and Facebook, stating that social platforms will “rewrite the way we communicate.” There is certainly data to support a shift to the social paradigm.

In fact, some hot startups are avoiding email marketing completely. In anticipation of their app’s launch, Sumazi’s website asks users to connect via Facebook and Twitter, but does not ask for an email address. Likewise, Turntable.fm–a social media site that lets users DJ music in front of audiences in virtual “rooms”–will only let users connect via Facebook. In fact, you cannot gain an invitation to use Turntable.fm unless you have a Facebook friend who is already a Turntable user–Web 2.0′s answer to the velvet rope.

Does this imply, however, that email as a viable marketing platform is dead?

The most convincing evidence that social is usurping email’s role lies in the fact that users between the ages of 12 and 55 seem to be sending less email. The only age group that experienced increased email usage are those users over the age of 55. For many users in that age bracket, email is still novel, and a shift to social media might be seen as overwhelming. But the overall trend is toward social. Research firm comScore’s 2010 US Digital Year in Review shows that total web-based email usage has declined 8% over the last year. The decline was especially stark among users aged 12 to 17 – a startling 59%. These users became indoctrinated in social media early in their lives, and have therefore had the easiest time shifting paradigms. As the Web 2.0 generation comes to maturity, social will have to play a greater role in harnessing their buying power.

The death of email?

Data from comScore

Social media marketing, on the other hand, is on the rise. MarketingWeek posted the results of a survey that showed that an additional 7% of global businesses are now using social media channels to court leads. A BrightEdge study also showed that more businesses are adopting social plugins on their websites.

At DemandResults, we have fully embraced social media’s potential. When chatting internally, we use Salesforce chatter. When we launched evidencebasedmarketing.net, we experimented with not-including an email sign up. Instead, we allow users to interact with us via Facebook and Twitter. Social media allows us to communicate with our followers via short, to-the-point posts in real time. We saw this as a preferable option to crafting long-winded emails that would essentially give the same information we could send via a tweet. We save lengthier posts for our blog and use social to let our followers know when new content has arrived.

Other startups have the same idea.

But is it really time to plan email’s funeral? To paraphrase Mark Twain: reports of email’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Email marketing is still a powerful tool. Especially when integrated with a customer relationship management solution (CRM), a business can develop an automated email marketing strategy to nurture and recycle leads.

To assume that content is no longer being shared via email would be a mistake. The sharing widget Addthis released data stating that Gmail’s sharing volume increased by 394% in 2010! According to EConsultancy’s report, How We Shop in 2010: Habits and Motivations of Consumers, 61% of consumers still prefer to receive offers via email.

Email marketing remains one of many channels that your business can employ. Email campaigns can still generate revenue and, in many cases, may prove to be the optimal channel. But there is no arguing with the fact that social media marketing is on the up-and-up. While it may be premature to declare email extinct, the time to implement a winning social media strategy is now—before the email era truly reaches its end.

More from Evidence-Based Marketing: http://evidencebasedmarketing.net/will-social-media-marketing-bring-the-end-of-the-email-era-2#ixzz1S7ko1rqS


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