Home > Marketing > The future of social media is email

by Frank Strong

Did you check your mailbox today?  I don’t mean email, I mean your 100% USPS grade mailbox.

Today, my mailbox had two mail order catalogs, a shopping flyer and a piece of political direct mail.  I placed them all directly into the recycling bin nearby without a glance. That’s pretty much the routine these days — there’s very little of value in snail mail these days.  It’s all junk.

Unfortunately the email inbox has followed a similar path.  I receive literally more than 300 emails a day, and I used to consider myself an email master.  Now, it’s all I can do to keep up.  I find deleting emails on my iPhone is the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning.

Gosh, that’s a depressing thought.  Heaven forbid I leave my desk for 10 minutes because I’ll come back to 20 messages.

The newsletters are the worst — often produced by the publishers that employ the very  journalists who also complain about PR pitches by email.  Every newsletter in the world now offers an “extra” that comes in the form of an additional email (or two) and a “most read of the week” email which contains headlines I’ve already either skimmed or read.

Worse, few publications offer a way to opt out of the extra newsletters without opting out of the content I actually want — it’s all or nothing.  I’m coming darn close to folding my cards and opting for nothing. Don’t get me wrong, I like newsletters, I subscribe to them for a reason, but I didn’t consent to the same content in triplicate.    

Someone smarter than me today had an interesting observation:  social media may well be going that route too.  Email has become a direct marketing tool, pounding the wall with a canoe paddle and as much spaghetti as possible — hoping something sticks.  Increasingly more and more of it is falling on the floor which makes a big mess someone has to clean up.  There’s an Italian chef somewhere upset about this too.

The irony is that email was intended to be a conversation tool, and one that marketers could use to nurture their prospects — the regular newsletter was one of those ways — but it’s been so abused, people are inclined to abandon it.  It’s gotten so out of control we’ve had to pass legislation.

For now social media is pretty good about policing itself; you can only jam up the gigabytes on social networks for so long before someone lets you have it publicly.  And when they do, you really get it good.  By that time, there’s a groundswell of people already so pissed off, and so angry, when they see that post hit, it gets retweeted, re-blogged, tubml-ed, liked and plus-ed up like a social signal Google doesn’t know what to do with.

I hope that’s not the way it goes.  I do think social media is viable medium for marketing, but I think it requires a softer sell, a consultative sell. We MUST ADD VALUE NOT NOISE. Persuasion over begging, or manipulation, for those without a moral compass.  In many ways, that’s why I think marketing looks a lot more like PR.

Photo credit:  yes, that’s my inbox at 9 a.m. — and I checked email at 10 p.m. the night before.  For real, for real. 

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7 Responses

  1. You’ve hit it on the head. We’re in the post social media phase, Frank, and we’re preparing to clean up the horrors of spams, bots, mass distributions of junk and the like. Do you remember back in the day when Twitter was pure? 
    It all begins that way, and then WHAM! In your face! 
    Marketers want ROI; those who believe this route is preferred are smokin’…not hot.

    1.  @Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing I hope it’s not true.  BTW, updated the photo in the post with a real screen shot from my inbox this morning.  Amazing. 

  2. “Pounding the wall with a canoe paddle & spaghetti” Now that’s a visual.
    I’m with you on the newsletter overload. There was a time a few years back when I valued a few newsletters here and there, but now I’m more likely to seek that content out on my own, especially as tools like Hootsuite, Flipboard and RSS-based services are at the ready. Instead of starting my day with a bunch of deletions, I’m starting it by using that “unsubscribe” link. It’s a satisfying feeling, and I don’t feel like I’m missing out.

    1.  @rsmithing I do like them.  Way better than Delicious, RSS or even aggregation sites, because I only subscribe to stuff I want.  It’s troubling though when that balance is upset by overload. 

  3. I think the key to the newsletters is to really work hard to stay in touch with your readers and what they need/want. I can only speak on behalf of what I have seen with my newsletter, but experience has proven that when I follow those simple guidelines open rates go up and I receive great feedback.
    One of the biggest challenges with social media in general is that we keep moving towards broadcasting messages as opposed to interacting with people.

  4. Pingback : Stand out from the competition by offering valuable content

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