Silverpop - Email vs. Social Networks
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Email vs. Social Networks

Bill Nussey, Silverpop
by: Bill Nussey (@bnussey)
07 January 2008

Welcome back! I hope everyone had a great holiday and that you are all off to a wonderful New Year.

It's been a while since I've posted, but a colleague sent me an interesting article from MediaPost that seemed like a stimulating and provocative way to kick off 2008. The story is about social networks and the future of email. The writer, Max Kalehoff, defends email’s role in the much-hyped world of social networks. He notes that email is the engine behind many social networks, and that as young people mature, email may well replace social networks as their core communication tool.

To me, it’s more about the difference between business-to-business and consumer-to-consumer communications. In BtoB, the variety of traffic, the need for people to be able to contact you uninvited (e.g., “Hi, I’d love to buy your product”) and the age-old manage-your-life-via-email-folders make a strong case for email’s continued prevalence in business. For purely interpersonal email, however, social networks can provide a powerful alternative: no spam, better tracking of threads, control over who can contact you, deep context with the individuals you’re communicating with and so on. I don’t think everyone necessarily will use two email addresses for personal and business communications, nor will those who do necessarily use social networks exclusively. However, I do think we’ll continue to see a rise in social networks underlying our daily CtoC communications.

Either way, this line of thinking misses what may be the most interesting question of the day--what about business-to-consumer (BtoC) email? After all, this is how many of us make our living.

As a consumer, how will I want the companies that serve me as a consumer to communicate with me? Frankly, it seems like I’m going to want them to come through whichever channel I use for CtoC communications. This could seem threatening to our business but I believe it also represents a huge benefit. The fact is that consumer channels are diverging. In addition to social networks and email, there’s an increasing use of RSS and chat not to mention the explosively growing mobile channel. I believe that our industry is uniquely well-suited to provide the universal marketing dashboard/tool suite that enables marketers to reach their permission-based audience regardless of channel.

And, as some of you are well aware, many companies in our industry, including my company, Silverpop, are already well on their way. Speaking for the industry, I hope that 2008 will be looked back on as the year where email marketing took the next step.




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