Social Email: A New Role for an Old Favorite

One of the fallacies of the high technology industry is that innovation is a linear progression, in which new technologies completely replace old ones.  That isn’t always the case.

A number of smart companies are hosting cloud applications and virtual desktops on mainframes.  Paper certainly isn’t obsolete in a world when global digital document publishing is the norm. (For which I am profoundly grateful, as my husband owns a tree farm which grows pine trees for making paper.)

Social media hasn’t replaced email.  Dr. Sarah Radicati of the prestigious Palo Alto analyst firm The Radicati Group is perhaps the world’s leading expert on email.  She wrote back in the 1990’s that nearly twice as many people had email accounts as owned computers. That’s still true today.  (How many email accounts do you own?  Three?  Five?  How many computers do you own?  In our household there are at least 10 email addresses — and four computers.)

Email is here to stay, but its uses are changing.  One of the ways it’s changing is that email is becoming a client for social computing.  For instance, blogs accept posts directly from an email — just email the post to an address, and the subject line becomes the title of the blog, and the email text becomes the body of the post.  Facebook accepts photos and updates via email, too.

With the release of Microsoft Outlook Social Connector, you can click on a contact’s name to see email and attachments he or she has sent you, meetings you have attended together, and their activities in social networks. You can also send contacts a request to become your connection on LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social networks. 

Microsoft blogger Paco Herrera recently wrote that 89% of people had increased their social media participation during 2010, so it’s no secret that Microsoft, Google, and other email service providers are scrambling to add social networking to their existing email and IM platforms.

This is one of two blogs I write, and the other is part of my job as director of marketing for a SaaS company.  Building traffic, search engine ranking, and subscribers for that blog is important, so I’m always looking for ways to promote it without spending long hours on the social media sites “talking it up”.

Lately, I’ve been experimenting with MyPRGenie’s social media promotion tools for blogs, company news, and products.  It’s free, easy to use, and effective. (117,000 readers followed links from MyPRGenie’s social networking, email, and press release distribution service to The Distributed Marketing Blog about a week ago.)

By any measure, those results are outstanding, and I’m convinced that one of the reasons it worked so well is that the company combines social media tools like Reddit, Digg, StumbleOn, Facebook, Twitter and others with good, old-fashioned email.  I just pick the tools I want to use, upload my content, decide when and where I want it published (which I can do via email) and their system does the rest.

More traditional PR vendors like Vocus, Cision, Business Wire and PR Newswire have long included email marketing as part of their services, with built-in distribution networks to reach out to online, print, and broadcast media, as well as analysts. Now, many of them are adding social media users with high Klout scores, or strong social media influence, to their contact databases so that marketers can reach them via email, IM, or social media services.

To me, that says that email last far longer than some people seem to think.  It’s not only an effective marketing took today, it’s a way to extend the use of social networks to reach people you wouldn’t otherwise reach, and to make the experience richer. 

I don’t think we can afford to underestimate the fact that there are a lot more people who are comfortable with email than with the idea of learning something new to try social networking for the first time.  So using email as a gateway for them is just good marketing sense.

Do you use email as part of your social media outreach?  To blog, upload content to Facebook or LinkedIn?  To respond to YouTube comments?  Let me know!

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Looking for ways to improve the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns?  Check out a free white paper I wrote at work that includes practical tips on improving results (such as the best time to send email, common subject line mistakes, and how to boost response rates) It’s available for download here. 

Photo Credit:  Microsoft Outlook image provided by Microsoft Corporation’s Press Center. 
Disclosure:  I have no stake in MyPRGenie, and do not derive any reward or compensation for blogging about them, but I am employed by a company (Distribion, Inc.) that shares a board member with the company.  My comments in this blog are those of a user, and not a spokesperson (paid or unpaid) for the company.

About debmcalister

I'm a Dallas-based marketing consultant and writer, who specializes in helping start-up technology companies grow. I write (books, articles, and blogs) about marketing, technology, and social media. This blog is about all of those -- and the funny ways in which they interesect with everyday life. It's also the place where I publish general articles on topics that interest me -- including commentary about the acting and film communities, since I have both a son and grandson who are performers.
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