The True Connecting Power of Email

Posted by Scott Cohen On January 21, 2011 in story time I 0 Comments

It seems at least once a week there is someone who puts out an article or blog post which declares “Email is Dead!” While it couldn’t be further from the truth, I have a sneaking suspicion that there are three reasons why folks keep claiming that this very powerful channel is dead:

  1. They are stupid. (Okay, that’s terse, I know. But there are stupid people in this world.)
  2. It’s a blatant attempt at “link bait.” Putting “email is dead” in an article is guaranteed to generate traffic, as those of us in the email marketing space are guaranteed to raise cain about it.
  3. It’s written by a web-based or social media company that doesn’t offer email marketing services. I call this the “Why spend money on email when you can spend money on me” syndrome.

Here are my questions: Why does email have to die for social media to be successful? Aren’t these two channels successfully coexisting now? Why do these folks think social media will replace email?

Those questions are for you to decide. Here’s why I think they’re exaggerating about the rumors of email’s demise:

EMAIL IS THE HUB

If you’ve ever flown Delta Airlines, odds are you’ve flown through the Atlanta airport. Atlanta may not have been your final destination, but you’ve made your connection through there. Why? Atlanta is a hub for Delta to fly to the rest of the world.

The key word there is “connection.” And email is the hub for your connections and the conversation. I would argue the “conversation” as it were runs on email. Think about it. What runs off of email?

  • Social Network Notifications. Every social network requires you to have an email address. That way, they can notify you of changes, follows, friend requests, announcements, what have you. (Hey, Twitter has an email newsletter. Go figure!) Your email address is your identity in many ways on the web and on social networks.You can’t be social without email.
  • Online Transactions. While there is no denying that social networks connect (there’s that word again) millions of people every day, the millions of daily transactions of sites like Amazon and Zappos would go largely undocumented without email. Social networks are not designed to handle receipts (nor should they be–Facebook has enough privacy problems at it is). Email is the “digital glue” (as my good friend DJ Waldow talks about) and the perfect companion for online transactions.
  • Special Offers. This is a no-brainer. But it is tough to keep secrets in social media. If you want to control the message a bit better, you can do so with email. But, in reality, this is where I would say both channels do an excellent job in terms of communication and connection.

(I’m not sure if he said it first, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t give props to Loren McDonald for being the first person I heard call email the “digital hub.”)

EMAIL IS THE NEW PAPER TRAIL

No one likes to carry around physical receipts anymore. And not many people prefer to pay their bills through the old-fashioned mail-in-a-check-with-the-correct-postmark-on-it process anymore. So what has email become? The new digital “paper trail.”

I shop frequently online. I pay the majority of my bills online. My email account has become a kind of receipt tray for those transactions. I can track just about everything through email.

Those online transactions I mentioned above? Paper trail. Notifications? Paper trail.

These days, people don’t print important documentation; people keep these records in their email. See, it’s the paper trail.

Even social networks recognize that value. That’s why they require email addresses to join.

CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?

My good friend, John Caldwell (of Red Pill Email), says that email is the “proto social media tool.” There is no reason email and social media can’t exist together as part of the conversation. In fact, they are better suited to work together as opposed to separately.

Email is what makes the world go ’round these days. It is the ultimate facilitator for connection, providing the fuel for the social network and commercial transaction engines around the world.

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