Ask Global Wire Associates: Is Email Dead?

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I am a communications manager for a small NGO that focuses on maternal health in Southeast Asia.  I was thinking about our long term internal and external communications strategy and campaigns, and I was told that email is dying, because of social media and younger people seeing it as a relic of the past.  Should I bother using email anymore or should I focus on building a social media strategy instead?  Is email dead?        

– Rosa de la Cruz, Manila, Philippines

The short answer: No, email is not dead.  With that said, social media has drastically changed the way individuals and organizations communicate with each other.  However, most recent statistics show that not only is email for internal communications still alive, but it is also evolving.

According to a Harvard Business Review survey using 2,600 workers, email is still considered “the most effective collaborative tool.”  Only 22 percent of respondents would like to see email “adopt a more social construction, using self-selected ‘followers’ and ‘friends.’” Yes, it is true that most email is spam these days; however, half of respondents use their email as an online file storage system, a manager’s accountability source and a document courier.

Additionally, eight out of ten mobile users check and send emails with their devices.  Over half of workers use their mobiles to check upon waking up from sleep in the morning or immediately after getting dressed for work.  That’s dedication!

As far as external communications are concerned, having a social media strategy is a great plan to have, especially if you are looking to expand your organizational brand and attract more supporters.  President Barack Obama set up a new standard of using social media to reach the masses and get elected in 2008.  But for all the social media work the Obama for America campaign did in 2012, did you know that his campaign raised US$690 million from email marketing alone?

From Businessweek:

…The campaign would test multiple drafts and subject lines—often as many as 18 variations—before picking a winner to blast out to tens of millions of subscribers. “When we saw something that really moved the dial, we would adopt it,” says Toby Fallsgraff, the campaign’s e-mail director, who oversaw a staff of 20 writers… “The subject lines that worked best were things you might see in your in-box from other people.  ‘Hey’ was probably the best one we had over the duration.” …Another unexpected hit: profanity. Dropping in mild curse words such as “Hell yeah, I like Obamacare” got big clicks. But these triumphs were fleeting. There was no such thing as the perfect e-mail; every breakthrough had a shelf life… Fortunately for Obama and all political campaigns that will follow, the tests did yield one major counterintuitive insight: Most people have a nearly limitless capacity for e-mail and won’t unsubscribe no matter how many they’re sent. “At the end, we had 18 or 20 writers going at this stuff for as many hours a day as they could stay awake,” says Fallsgraff. “The data didn’t show any negative consequences to sending more.”…

So there you have it.  Of course technology trends are always changing, and email could eventually become a digital casualty to whatever those new trends are.  Nonetheless, email is here to stay (for now).

Got a question for us? Send us an email at info(at)globalwireonline(dot)org with “Ask Global Wire Associates” in the subject line.

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