Thursday, September 6, 2012

Is email dead? Or is it moving to social networks?

Is email here to stay or will it die? Will it die because social media is here or will something else replace email?
Recently Steve Dale wrote an interesting post about this topic. It's titled 'Email is dead: long live email!'. It was discussed on G+ and the blogpost itself has many interesting comments. I thought I'd share my comments here as well. Please read Steve's post first. I think it's an important post for social business people.

Steve lists several reasons to use (and keep on using) email:
  1. Email arrives near instantaneously. It can be accessed from almost anywhere. It brings not just text, but pictures, documents, links, and more.
  2. Email is great for non-urgent communication. Things that don’t require an immediate response that others can deal with on their schedule.
  3. Email can provide a powerful documentation trail. Unlike text messages or phone calls, email provides an authenticated audit trail of past communication. It is hard to deny past actions and messages when there is a clear history.
  4. Email is one of the best mediums for communicating across time zones. It allows people on different schedules to communicate at their leisure.
  5. Message formatting features come as standard.
  6. The email client is a personal information management database. It can be browsed, sorted, filtered, tagged and searched. Features which I’ve yet to see implemented in most Enterprise Social Software activity streams.
  7. Email can be closely integrated with business workflows, where an action or decision is required.
  8. Email provides an (almost) foolproof 2-way authentication, hence why it is still used by nearly all online service providers to verify new accounts.
This is a good list. I'd like to add a 9th reason to use email: it’s good for 1-on-1, private/confidential communication. On the other hand, like one of the commentors wrote: This 9th reason may even be the only good reason to use email. The rest of our communication can move to SNA’s, although DM-ing and Messaging in Facebook still seems to be somewhat shaky. And risky… We’ve all tried to DM something that popped up in our public stream anyway, for instance…

But still, email is clearly moving to social networks. The thing I like about that is that communication is being done in a platform that is open by default instead of closed, like email. It triggers us to think open first and make something private if needed.

Moreover, emailing itself is changing rapidly. We used to use email like paper letters. Instead of writing “Dear Sir [content] Best regards, x”, we now just write “Thanks” or “OK”. Email is being used more like messaging and chat.

I love Steve's point about educating people to use email. This is a huge issue. Some time ago I asked someone (who is about 40 years old) to forward an email to me. He didn’t know what I meant and how he should do it… This is funny, but also a pretty serious issue. An even bigger issue is that people don’t use email (and other tools) productively. They simply haven’t learned how. This has to do with learning features of email, but also with learning a good and sound knowledge work process. I use ‘Getting Things Done’ for instance. It has increased my productivity in a big way. When I tell about GTD and train people in the principles it’s a revelation to them. I think 9 out of 10 people don’t control their email and related social tools. They just let it come at them and are overwhelmed by the amount of information every day.
We have work to do! :o)

To wrap up this post: the inventor of email also agrees with Steve! This post was also discussed on G+.
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