What do you mean email is dead?

Matej
Matej Trajkovski
@whiletrueburn
Updated: 24/11/2018
email is not yet dead
end my pain...

Every once in a while, self-proclaimed experts on a topic decide they need to announce to the rest of the world (or anyone listening) that something is "dead". "IBM is dead". "C# is dead". "Marlon Brando is dead". See? The phrase has been so abused, it has gotten annoying even when it's factually true. The reason for this overuse is that shocking statements such as rejoicing about a thing's or a person's death attract eyeballs, and it's a real useful marketing hack that is actually destroying the entire Western civilization. But I digress.

One "it's dead" phrase I've been hearing a lot lately is that "email is dead". First of all, I saw email this morning, it looked fine. Second, who are you anyway? If you're reading this, chances are our first contact has been by email. Last year was the best year for email, a few hundred billion live ones of them were sent around. It broke its own record from last year, following the cheesiest self-help advice ever and competing and out-performing its past self.

yeah just be yourself
legend has it that David was "just being himself" when he beat Goliath

Still, if you've ever used email, you know that it can be a little... how should I say this... emaily. I still feel like I'll be surprised by a flashing "Hackerman" gif every time I open it. It is a bit too 90's. It can feel slow. You can use all the possible formats and fonts and bolds and italics and bulleted lists, but it always feels out of place. Don't get me wrong, I like email, but the trouble is, kids these days... they just don't appreciate the olden ways. "Email? What are you, like, 32?" or even worse, "A-what-ail?". And you know, if you want to make it in today's business climate, you have to pander to the millennials and pretend that you understand Snapchat.

old lady snapchat
it doesn't matter you post nudes, just don't sit on the concrete

With more young people coming into the world and old people leaving it, there will finally be an appropriate time for someone to say "email is dead" and not be wrong. Fact is though, over time, you'll want to bet on social more. I did a lot of emailing myself, and it still might be number one for many tasks and results in marketing, but that is slowly changing with every new 3-year-old learning how to play a Youtube video and every Windows 95 early adopter losing a couple more million neurons. That's why we built a social media tool instead of an email tool, and that's why you need to think about shifting your efforts in marketing.

Let's go over the key goals every marketer is trying to achieve and see how social compares to email.

Grow an audience

Personally, I had some tough times trying to find an audience by cold emailing. Many people don't respond at all, and I'm kinda shy so I rarely try and push more than one time. You could push, but people might mark you as spam too, and those things matter, once your domain gets on those blacklists it's hard getting out. Some people don't even open the emails. Email capture widgets make sense on blogs and landing pages (expect one here soon :)). I would argue that in the near future we might see Twitter handle capture widgets, but that's another post. Email lists are kinda hard to keep fresh and current. I opened an older email account that I haven't used for a year, and there were 3000 unread messages in there. Of course, I didn't bother notifying all the places I've given my email that I'm using another email address. In fact, I've probably created that email address just for the purpose of giving it out to registration forms I might be kinda interested but still haven't made the decision to commit. Those things are serious you know, you don't just give your [primary or secondary] X [business or personal] email to just about anyone. Maybe the fake personal email, or the third business email or the one you use to only register on potentially embarrassing sites. There are services offering the equivalent of one-night-stands of emails for these purposes exactly.

All of the above are to some extent issues with social media profiles, but not that much, and that actually means a lot. People do create a lot of fake accounts on social media as well, but they are so easy to recognize that the creators don't even bother. Actively working a fake account for the sole purpose of registering or looking around would be like teaching a monkey to speak - what's the point, what happens after that, where will he go, how will that monkey support its family?

monkey uprising
best case scenario

Messaging on social media is similar to email in lots of ways, but different in a lot of ways too. On most social networks, you have this "seen" notification in your chat (which has been responsible for so many blows to your ego). Sure, you can install some third-party tracking extensions for email too, but many of them are paid, and users can always just disable javascript and images in their emails and your tracking dogs lose the scent right there. When you're pushing the limit on social networks, you usually get banned (hands up if you've been banned 5+ times). Then you learn your lesson, validate your number, promise to behave and you're back in the game. Even if the user has turned off "seen", you can always pull the plain ol stalking and just open their profile and see when they've been active last (if your pride wasn't shattered enough after not getting a response :)).

Announcements, pitches and newsletter blasts

The strongest trait of email is that it is you that owns those contacts and you have full control over the communication flow. You couldn't really blow out 30.000 messages on social media in one blast, you will get either temporarily disabled or banned after just sending a few dozen identical messages. With email, you could send 10 emails a day to 30.000 people, which is 300.000 messages. Can't take that away from email. But you don't have to, because you have a better way on social media. If 30.000 people follow you, just post! Post several times in the day, offer value a few times, push product a few times. People already spend more time on social media than in their inboxes, and they follow lots of people, they don't mind seeing several posts from you in one day. In some ways it’s even better to do that than blast a newsletter. That said, this one still goes to email. I would gladly have an email list of 200.000 subscribers than 200.000 Twitter followers.

Targeting

Can't see how email can compete here. When you have an email address of someone, you have a word with a "@" and a "." in it, unless it's one of those really descriptive emails like "[email protected]" (stop troll-emailing her please, she's actually a really nice person). When you have someone's twitter handle, you basically have an insight into their id, their best and their worst, and their poor sense of humour. If the email address comes from a blog, you might have some context around the person, and still their blog posts are usually what they do for money, not who they really are, no matter how aligned their jobs are with their values.

Engage your audience

There are some strong points for email here, but not enough to take away the round. You have one way to communicate with someone on email, and that's email. On social, you can message, share, like, comment, ignore, mess with other people... basically, it's like a true relationship. Without, you know... staring deeply into each other's eyes. One curious thing about emailing someone is that it's strangely intimate in a way. An email is usually between a marketer and a victikhhmm, sorry, customer. You don't show your inbox to anyone, and nobody wants to see it. It's for your eyes only. Messages on social media, you sometimes show to your friend, but email? Never. Social media is meant for other people to see, which helps with sharing a lot, which helps engagement a lot. Plus, you have all these pictures and memes here...

Building relationships

Come on. We don't even have to do this. When's the last time you've emailed a picture of your vacation to your contacts? When's the first time? Was there ever a time?

Control and independence

Another strong point for email. With social, you're always at the mercy of the platforms, and the platforms are primarily businesses run with the primary goal of making profit, not enabling you to send product links to people. What happened with Facebook pages is the best example of this so far - marketers that easily grew their pages and thought they were on top of the world woke up one day to find a Facebook algo update that nearly rendered their pages obsolete. Sadly, we can expect more of that to happen, and we'll have to become more and more clever with the organic growth hacks, or sometimes just work harder. Email is governed by the same principles from two decades ago, as mentioned above you can pretty much send many emails to huge masses of people, which basically means you're in control of your communications.

that is a lot of spam
and you know what that means...

Simplicity

Not sure why, but writing an email feels like a commitment. I think it may be the subject line. Why do I have to do that? Is it weird if I don't do it? If the email text is "updated infographics 4.4 (this time truly final!)", then what is the subject line? I've never left a subject line empty even when sending the stupidest email to a close friend. There's always the need to come up with some catchy intro into your probably worthless message. In social, you just comment or message, you don't have to summarize it before you write it. For some reason, email has a certain heavyness to it, and that's a reason why people prefer to spend more time on social.

Offer value and sell

I guess email might win here. Mostly because you expect to be sold something. It's not totally outrageous to offer great deals to strangers on email (right? :)). It is kinda weird to befriend someone on Facebook and try push your ultimate solution to every problem in their life that also comes with a vacuum cleaner there. This will change though, as people move away from email, it will become more common for marketers to locate and bother you on social media. For now, this is email's point.

Measure and analyse

Email has been there longer, so one might assume that the tooling is more mature, but one couldn't be so sure because social media tools are evolving at a break-neck pace. With email, you measure how many emails you've sent, how many of them were opened, how many of the opened ones had their links clicked. With social media, you have the basic numbers like likes and shares and comments already there, you usually have the impressions of your posts with some kind of a tool, and you can also measure link clicks. I guess email could win here, only because you can perform a true A/B test, meaning send one email to half of your audience and another to the other half. I've been trying to come up with ways to do this on social media, but I only have half-baked solutions. Ads are probably the only way, especially Facebook ads, but since we're organic here and we hate ads and they cost manhyee!! we won't consider them as a method. Ok, email wins this one.

Conclusion

Email may be on the ropes, but it's far from dead. If email was really in a fight with social (which it isn't), it would be a close fight. No matter how much I love and believe in social media as the future of human interaction, I wouldn't even think of abandoning email. The greediness of the businesses behind the social networks should never let you relax and think you've won. That's why it would be smart to focus more on social, but email should never be neglected.

It may happen that HustleCool soon includes support for streamlining email as well. Until then, feel free to dominate social media using it.