When email first arrived for the mainstream in the 90s, it felt amazing to be able to send a message to another person on the other side of the world – in an instant.
But email has been around for three decades.
Since email, we’ve had instant messenger (IM) on our computers and laptops, SMS on our phones, and then email and IM later arrived on our phones too.
If that wasn’t enough, along came social media with the power to communicate with hundreds, thousands and even millions of people at around the same time. The social media platforms came with their own messaging components too.
Email is old news now. Dead, right?
Wrong. And here’s why…
Email is primarily a communication tool. Social Media is for managing our personal networks
Email is an alternative to the written letter and memo, in its basic form. It’s a communication tool for delivering a message directly to recipients electronically.
Similarly, email marketing is an alternative to the physical, direct marketing postal campaigns that were more popular in the decades past.
Social media is primarily for people to connect with other people. To keep in touch with their networks, build and nourish more relationships, share personal news amongst these circles, often have a bit of fun, speak your mind, etc.
Email is core to people’s communication toolset
Having at least one main email address is core to every person’s set of communication tools, long ago. Like having a postal address e.g. home, and a mobile number.
People use their email address to communicate with people and businesses that they choose to.
They send what they want. They open and read what they want. They bin what they don’t want, or unsubscribe.
So email gives them a high degree of control and everything incoming gets to flow through their inbox (with the exception of spam filtering of course).
This is all still the case today.
Email became the key to accessing other products and services
As things evolved, our email addresses started to play a bigger role in accessing products and services.
For example, purchasing something from an eCommerce store meant that the confirmation, sales receipts etc. would have to arrive in our inbox.
But email later got even more integrated into the relationships we have with businesses. Like your Amazon account, Netflix, Facebook, finance products like banking, etc.
An endless list of things that matter to you, require your email address. Could you honestly say you can drop email today?
Email guarantees the opportunity to reach every contact in your database
Email is a form of direct marketing. For each person in your database, you can reach them directly, every time you email them.
Of course, there are challenges around deliverability (reaching the inbox vs. spam folder), open rates, unsubscribes, etc.
But with social media, the platforms decide who your message will be delivered to and rule the game using their algorithms.
Over the years they’ve made it harder to maintain the same level of reach. Why? Because their business models are based on advertising. So they’re increasing their monetisation by making you pay more and more to reach your own audience.
There’s nothing wrong with what they’re doing – social media networks are businesses after all. But most people and businesses take to social media to avoid the cost of advertising, only to later realise that they’ll have to pay to reach their so-called own audiences.
Email is low-cost and has no algorithm. So if you behave (don’t abuse your database), and be smart (send content that your audience values), then you have the potential to reach every person in your database.
Your email database is owned by you – always
When you collect email addresses as part of running your business, by nature of the systems at play you get to own and keep that data (albeit within your email marketing platform, perhaps with some backups elsewhere).
You should always collect or upload data into your email platform ethically and legitimately, following local laws e.g. being GDPR compliant.
One of the biggest risks with social media is that you don’t own your connections. The platform owners totally rule that.
So something goes wrong, you can’t post content, you can’t reach your connections whatsoever, and possibly never again.
- Social media profile hacked.
- You knowingly or unknowingly breach the platform terms so your account revoked (deleted, in which case you also lose all your content, unless you actually backed it up).
Social Media backlash
Social media was once cool. But now it is rightfully burdened by some major threats for its users:
- Mental health
Since 2018, the world has been experiencing a rise in serious privacy concerns that reached the top of the agenda for the media, millions of people around the world, and Congress.
- Cambridge Analytica / election scandal (BBC: Cambridge Analytica: The story so far)
- Mark Zuckerberg’s numerous apologies (CNBC: Mark Zuckerberg has been talking and apologizing about privacy since 2003 — here’s a reminder of what he’s said)
These issues are on everyone’s mind and they’re unlikely to fade away fast.
In fact, they’re only increasing as more and more people and entities are increasing the pressure on the social media networks to address privacy and the impact on mental wellbeing of people using social media.
For decades, email has been central to every person for their communication with the rest of the world. Email is even more entrenched into our lives than ever before.
Email gives you the opportunity to reach everyone in your database when you want to, free of algorithms, useful to keep your brand front of mind and make sales conversion easier.
You get to keep complete control and right over the data you collect (as long as you play by the rules in the first place).
Other than good practices which are governed e.g. GDPR, email is free from the risks that taint the social media platforms.
The choice isn’t to choose email over social media, or social over email. The choice is to do both, and remembering why email should be the most central component of your digital outreach.
Note: I’m often asked to make recommendations on email marketing platforms, or which platform I use. The right platform choice depends on your business, and for mine I use MailerLite. All recommended products and services are on the dedicated resources page.