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, instantly.
But email has been around for over three decades.
After getting email on our computers, we then got instant messenger (IM) applications, and then all of the above on our mobile phones too.
If that wasn’t enough, along came social media with the power to reach thousands to millions of people. The social media platforms came with their own messaging components too.
Email is old news now. Dead, right?
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 a core communication tool for almost every person
Almost every person with access to some sort of connected computing device, has an email address, and it’s a core part of their communication toolset.
For years, people have used their email address to communicate with people and businesses that they choose to.
People have had a high degree of control over their email, sending what they want, reading, deleting, subscribing, unsubscribing, etc.
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 Amazon meant that the confirmation, sales receipts, return emails, etc. are all done through email.
But email later got even more integrated into the relationships we have with businesses, like with 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 on your list, you can reach them directly, every time you email them.
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. A new post could reach as little as 10% of the audience you’ve worked so hard to build.
Over the years they’ve made it harder to maintain the same level of reach. Their business models are based on advertising revenue. 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 choose social media to avoid the cost of advertising, only to later realise that they’ll have to pay to reach their own audiences.
Email is low-cost and without an algorithm standing in your way. 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.
You should always collect or upload data into your email platform ethically and legitimately, following local laws, guidelines or regulations (like GDPR).
One of the biggest risks with social media is that you don’t own your connections.
So if 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 your historic content and engagement).
The platform owners totally rule this one.
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)
- A Netflix documentary-drama hybrid exploring the dangerous human impact of social networking, with tech experts sounding the alarm on their own creations: Social Dilemma on Netflix)
These issues are on everyone’s mind and they’re unlikely to fade away fast.
In fact, the pressures is only increasing on social media networks to address privacy and the impact on mental wellbeing of people using their products.
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.
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.