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Who Wins the Social Network Wars?

Posted on: July 18, 2013
Tags: Social network marketing, Email marketing

The social network wars are over.  The winner?  Drum roll please...it's email!  Why, you ask?

Major innovation in email has transformed it into the best social network on the Internet.

With every new social network and social service, with every new instant and not-so-instant way to communicate, email rises in importance. The reason is that with everybody choosing a different way to communicate, email is increasingly the only one we all have in common. It's the glue that holds the social web together.

I prefer Google+. My mom and one of my kids are on Facebook. Two of my daughters are on Twitter and Instagram.  One of my nieces is on Pinterest. One of my best friends is on Path. Another is on Pheed. My dad isn't really sure what a social network is.

The fact that everybody is using a social network, and a different one, doesn't matter.  I still reach them all thanks to the Mother of All Social Networks - email.

It helps that the regular social networks do (and must) integrate with email. For example, on Google+ I've added non-Google+ users to my circles. When I post to "Family," the family members on Google+ get a post in their stream and the rest get the post in their email in-boxes.

Even if you don't use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or other social networks much, you can have all those services set up to send, via email, posts from the people on those services you care about.

In all those cases, email is an extension of Google+. Email takes social networking posts where the social networks cannot go.

So, not only is email the glue that holds social networks together, it's also the biggest social network by far. There are 2.4 billion people on the Internet worldwide, that's why the idea that young people will never use email is absurd. Sure, high school kids can get by with just Snapchat. But once they have a job and an adult life, not using email is like not having a phone. Opting out of email is career suicide.

What's really interesting to me is that email has recently become an exciting category. No, really!

What is email, anyway?

Email is really two things. First, it's an Internet-based messaging format standard. That's the part of email that makes it universal and therefore indispensable.

But email is also a software and cloud application category. And that's where the excitement is happening.

More to the point, software design has caught up with the reality of what people are really doing with email. Primarily, people are doing social networking, as in networking socially or professionally with the people they know. They're doing this email-to-email and also email-to-social-network.

Second, people are subscribing to and reading online publications, maintaining to-do lists, getting calendar and other notifications and many other things.

The new world of intelligent email

Google recently rolled out an optional Gmail redesign that auto-sorts messages into tabbed categories, such as "Primary" (real people), "Social" (social networking messages), "Promotions" (commercial content you signed up for), "Updates" (alerts and notifications from various services) and "Forums" (updates from online message boards). You can take or leave any of these tabs. 

This is a really handy update because instead of treating all incoming mail as either spam or not spam, it divides email into six categories, which better reflects the reality of email.

Another cool trend is the way mobile interface designs are improving. A Dropbox app called Mailbox recently became popular with the iPhone crowd. It hooks into your Gmail account and provides a nice, touch-native interface. Swiping a message all the way to the right deletes it, swiping part way to the right archives it, and swiping it to the left brings up a screen of options for making the message go away temporarily, from "later today" to "tomorrow" to "someday" and several others.

Mailbox is really simple and that's the point. All mobile email should work like that. Dropbox just launched an iPad version of Mailbox and promises an Android version soon.

Email as a platform

Beyond intelligence, integration and interface improvements, the status of email as a platform is one of the most intriguing developments.

Email applications are getting more features all the time. But increasingly, if your email service lacks a feature you want, you can add it with a plug-in or add-on.

A new world of Gmail and Outlook add-ons, which are actually browser extensions, enable you to do things like delay the sending of email, track messages and get notifications when recipients open your message. Some of the best ones are BoomerangBananatag and Right Inbox.

Other add-ons let you get around file attachment size limitations. Still others serve specific professionals, such as salespeople.  The list is endless.  To find them, simply search the Web for "Gmail plugins" or "Outlook plugins."

Why email is the best social network

Email is not only the biggest, most important and in some ways most vibrant social network, it's also the best.

The reason is that as social networks become more automated and full of annoying advertising, email provides a user interface to those same networks, but with you in control.

Using the notification settings on each social network, as well as the filters or rules on your email service and browser add-ons and plug-ins, you can get all the benefits of all your social networks -- including the same people -- without most of the irritating downsides.

Need some help with your social network or email marketing?  Please contact us today for a FREE consultation.  We'd be happy to help you get started.

 


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