Social Networking vs Email
I saw this chart in Morgan Stanley's latest Internet trends report.
Even though I've been saying for years that social networking will one day usurp email, it's a bit shocking to see that it has.
There are some caveats. My kids use Facebook as their primary inbox (they also use gmail). So some of what they do on Facebook is actually email.
But even so, it looks like email's reign as the king of communication is ending and social networking is now supreme.
When we landed back in the states recently after a long flight and got in a car to drive into the city, The Gotham Gal looked at me and said "why are you checking twitter and not email?" (as she was doing). I told her that email required a reply and twitter did not. And that I preferred twitter to email and always checked it first.
Whether it's Twitter, Facebook, or some other social networking service, I believe the lighter weight communication paradigm (say less, reach more) is superior to email for many things and I'm certainly moving more of my communications away from email.
Ideally, that would leave the more important heavier weight communications in email. If it were only so. Email's biggest problem is the inability to control other's power to email you. That is also its greatest strength.
If email can solve the inbound overload problem, it can become a sustainable compliment to social networking and remain a powerful mode of communication for a long time to come. It's a truly private channel and is more suitable for long-form serious private conversations.
And email's usage is still growing (125bn minutes per month in the chart above). So don't take this post as anti-email. We've got one email related investment that is doing great, Return Path, and we are certainly open to doing more there.
But social networking is the king of communications now. Long live the king.
Don’t you think email is social? It’s mostly 1-1 communication, but I think it’s part of my “social” activities, like telephone.
of course it is social. but for me, way too much of email is work, hard work, and not fun in the least. it is a chore and i hate it. so that takes much of the social element out of email and that’s unfortunate
Are you telling that social is just recreational? 😀 LinkedIn is social and pro too… but another type of experience. I guess it’s just a problem of consuming application? The computers should do more for us in the emails (prioritizing, semantic extraction…etc).
I missed the period when everyone liked email. Damn.
I know the feeling. I’ve always taken email too seriously. Making it too formal. The easier my access to communication, the less formal it becomes and the more I can actually get stuff done.
Maybe we should all request a way to un-serious email for a day. I don’t know, skin my gmail with a smiley face theme, something that makes people crack up a tad.At least we know what the problem is.
I’d say that’s because I’d class you as an email super user and that many people perceive you as approachable because of your blog and therefore you receive a lot of unsolicited email that you perhaps feel you have to respond to.I way prefer email over any form of social network, it can be filtered, one to many, many to one encompasses business and social and be as formal or informal as you like.There are many times when social in whatever format just does not cut it as a form of communication because of the rules imposed or lack of features that either Twitter or Facebook haven’t implemented because if they did it would dent their revenue potential.The backlash has already started; when you have college kids changing their names on Facebook to prevent potential employers searching them out and USV are telling people not to sanitise their profiles then you know that Facebook is failing their key customer demographic.
Does quantity equals quality? If we see permission marketing’s value on the email, it would it be interesting to see map like this but comparing monetization/ value instead
I realized at one point that the generation under 20 doesn’t remember email before webmail. At which point your primary interface to email is a web page, it’s relatively immaterial if that’s hosted by Google or Facebook. IMAP, POP and SMTP are historical anachronisms.
Do they remember the wonders of AOL and dial up? Funny to feel like a dinosaur at age 24 just because I remember life before widespread computer use. Such as looking up a movie time in the newspaper.
You’re playing with words and definitions, stop, it’s meaningless.
if you are serious, please explain
My guess – He is pointing out that electronic communications, by any other name, is just the sweet inevitable extension of basic email functions.Once you sort through all the emerging modes and motifs for executing electronic communication/community it is only a mater of time before all the combinations of HOW best to optimize the communication of WHAT to WHOM will have been distilled into a list of most commonly useful standard functions, perceptual ergonomic memes and methods, just like word processors.At that point word processor like assemblage tools will allow you to quickly and easily construct your own, custom, organic, input output, communication/community feed interfaces to an array of federated social network communication/DB services.To dismiss the validity of this discussion is some what disingenuous as the commoditization of social networking will be a long and winding road of devilish details worth much discussion and rose smelling along the way.———————can you smell those clichesnothing could be sweeterthan the free rideon their coat tails
Could it be that email never really evolved?What if the standard protocols and feature sets had innovated such that other services could have powered better spam filtering/priority lists, photo sharing, etc…Email has user authentication, if the inbox had evolved earlier maybe there wouldn’t have been such a rise in social networking. Gmail from my perspective was the most recent major change in how an email service serviced the user.I’d prefer open social networking standards that wouldn’t lock me into one platform.
To your point I don’t think it’s an apples to apples comparison. Email is simply messaging, and (for better or worse) has basically remained so, whereas social networking is so much more than that. I’d expect people to spend more time in richer environments than simply messaging. And, speaking as an social-networked email service provider, that’s OK. The more people consume social networks and feeds the better we do.
But do you think if email evolved it could have become what we see asfacebook today, but instead it would be an open system?
Satish Mummareddy and BerislavLopac said what I was going to – Email converged to portals (which largely failed to jump to social networks) and email is a protocol, not an app. It is the email clients that didn’t evolve, not email as such. Email protocols have to evolve carefully for interoperability’s sake. I find myself wondering about today’s social networks and how the walls are around them. APIs are gates into the garden, but they’re still walled gardens nonetheless.
Agreed, stated much better than I did.I still wonder if the email protocol could have evolved to handle otheradd-ons like instant messaging, etc? Obviously the clients would need tosupport, but then you’d have interoperability.
Is Google Wave not an attempt to do this?I was really excited by its possibilities. But given all it’s bad press I have not bothered to fine the time to explore it.
Yes it is, but another issue with social media is the complexity that comeswith the privacy settings. We’ve got users of all ages and tech abilitiesusing them which leads to issues.
could it be that the reason email hasn’t evolved is because of its openness, and the fact that nobody has any direct control on how to change it? there has been resistance to even simple changes, such as authentication. (to be fair, the government has something to say about that)email was conceived by engineers a long time ago, and never changed. (gmail only changes the interface) on the other hand, facebook kept on innovating and experimenting around with many features. facebook is the result of user feedback, email is not.
they sitll never changed the most basic reason why I ask close friends to email, or why I want things to hook into my email- I can search my messages. If it is something serious- it goes into my email.
Yes and email is easy to backup.But I am probably just ignorant of social network backup possibilities!Can anyone point we to a good outline on this issue???
I’ve actually been in a situation where I couldn’t back up a social network(Facebook). I have yet to hear of a good way to back up social networksbeyond redundancy of networks, which is inherently problematic from the UserEnd. Imagine repeating the same action every time everywhere- loses themeaning of social very quickly, social is a bit specific since it inherentlyimplies some sort of norms and user to user interaction, not every actionis appropriate in person, why would it be appropriate on all socialnetworks?.It’s weird, because the more I think about it, those actions are part of thesum total of the digital me- what happens if I can’t back them up and ownthem separately away from a large corporation or other organization?
not all communication is created equal.quality of quantity. – im not sure usage minutes per month is the right metric to anoint a communication king. – it wouldn’t work for content (farmville would rule over all news sources combined)
Agree with you on “minutes per month” but it’s also leading now in terms of total # of users apparently. Therefore I’d add that “not all users are created equal” either.For example, it would be interesting to see if this analysis included the millions of inactive users on twitter / fb, blogs, etc… I’d imagine it would be difficult to quantify an inactive email user.
Mike, like you I’m curious as to how these numbers were created. comscore? nielsen? a survey? i would imagine it’s the latter because, as you pointed out, how do you quantify an inactive email user??
chart says source is ComScore…
heheh, that’s really small print. thanks for point it out.any idea what “morgan stanley research” means? simply that someone sat down to crunch the numbers?
I always wanted to know that too. I alway want to know what is with the big white fonts. Makes for hard reading.
the thing that scares me about “morgan stanley research” is that i have never looked at this stuff the same since reading mark suster’s post about “research” statistics (http://bit.ly/9Y0iuT).as far as the black background and white letters….maybe they want to mimic bloomberg terminals? i dunno :-/
I’ve seen that post. he’s right about primary research into statistics.One of the larger questions though unanswered by that blogpost is objective versus relative truth in statistics (or on the internet in general). One of the more interesting parts of the blog post is that pretty much everyone got to the same conclusion, albeit poorly. In some ways, it is you job to triangluate truth and figure out why. It is also why close encounters of the customer kind is important- sometimes sitting down and doing qualitative research to back yourself up.
“close encounters of the customer kind”i like that… is it okay if that quote ends up in a few of my pitch decks?
Sure, though you may want this to go with it:http://www.flickr.com/photo…
As others have noted the tiny print at the bottom of the chart says “Source: comScore global, Morgan Stanley Research.”.With out any information on the methods used I’m rather suspect of made up numbers.
I agree that minutes per month isn’t the only metric to consider. Social networking is quicker and simpler so it will naturally be used more frequently. That is not to say though that email has lost its importance for the things it is good for (longer, more serious communications). In fact, offloading the small, quick banter from email to social networking may actually be making email more valuable. This transition may mean social networking is being used more each month than email but that metric doesn’t provide much insight into value. Different channels for different things. It is ultimately better this way.
great point LIAD
When the chart left says “users” does it mean “people” or”accounts”, I wonder.
I’m assuming it means “accounts”, because it can’t be people. Every social network requires a valid email address when registering. So for a person to be a social network user, they must ALSO be an email user, by definition.It could mean something else entirely. I wish they had defined the Y-axis somewhere.
Is it fair to say that in the good old days of the internet, social interactions (of course along with work related communications) on the web were possible only through email and messenger services? Both allowed for sharing of only text. The shift started slowly with the advent of personal portals where you could express who you were, with photo sharing sites and blogs. Social networking sites brought all the text and nontext forms of communication into an easy communication mechanism for the nontech mass market along with filtering mechanisms. And that clearly prompted the landing page for social interactions to become the social networks. Once that happened, there was no need to go to email for social communications. Now I guess email is used only for work. :)What if email had evolved to keep up? We’d never know now. 🙂
Yes but I use my email as my personal very close person social page + I am starting out in the business world + school- how else would I chat/videochat with friends?Problem is that email has gotten a little too cozy with too different worlds- it is hard to be socially intimate with a friend while also writing a business email. Social networks tend to be at least semi-differentiated.
In some sense the day to day small interactions “your kids are growing up so fast and look cute”, “nice car”, “you’ve lost a ton of weight” used to be done through email in the past and those interactions have moved over to facebook. Sharing a link used to be done through email. Those have moved to either facebook or twitter. People used to ask to email wedding pics or bday pics. Now its done through flickr or facebook. The part of social interactions that have stayed on with email are the really personal stuff or stuff that is transactional or stuff that borders on business. 🙂 My 2 cents.
I still do some of those stuff via email or by gchat inside my email- very person dependent and context dependent. Though this might be an age thing and the fact that I notice a bunch of really interesting reactions to being a generation that is considered “heavily digital”
Fair enough: it is person and context dependent. In the past every one in all contexts did it through email and phone. Now some share of it (looks like a significant share based on the fact that people spend so much time on facebook) has moved to social networks.
Yeah, I just wrote about that, Facebook apparently has an internal algorithmto determine who you are looking at for “most popular” Your frenemy may beconstantly irritating you on Facebook, and facebook’s algorithm may makethat worse.Joy.
I’ve decided it is a woman thing in your 20s as you sort out your life.
“email is only used for work”that’s my experience and that’s why i find it such a chore
Yup. I’d agree with that. Furthermore, I think email does a few things that hurt me:1) Brings in artificial urgency to non critical tasks making them seem like high priority work2) a lot of times email forces me to put off my priorities to attend to other people’s priorities. (breaks up my consolidated time to do Individual work by making me switch context to respond to an email)3) There are small things at work that cause stress and can wait. But since I read the email it doesn’t get out of my head while I take a break.Also, therez work that I enjoy and work that I feel is a chore. 🙂 I love to sit and code, love to sell, love to talk to customers, love to mentor my team. There are a few aspects of my job that I don’t enjoy that much but I do my best because it is part of the package – chores maybe. 🙂
I agree with the sentiment that there’s an “either/or” being described that’s not quite that binary. Interaction is generally somewhere on a spectrum of synchronous/asynchronous and another spectrum with degrees of targeting. I can send an e-mail to one person, send a e-mail broadly to a list, post a fairly private posting on a web site, or post broadly. Some of those distinctions are semantics. And the ubiquity of web mail makes many of the back-end technology differences much less material from a use-case perspective.The biggest problem with e-mail is that the core technology’s lack of evolution has retarded the growth of the most significant user base – the corporate world. I have no choice but to use e-mail at work. And that means lowest-common-denominator. But the other options are not that common outside of fairly cutting edge firms. Blogs are used as an HR tool, wiki’s are the engineer’s hidden tool, IM is allowed because they can’t shut ports fast enough… But at the end of the day, the only way to reliably communicate with coworkers in another office is (1) telephone, (2), shared driver, and (3)… you got it – e-mail.Maybe if Google Buzz catches on in a corporate environment, there will be an alternative, but for now I deal with Outlook and Xobni.For social stuff – kids know that e-mail has been subsumed into broader, more holistic solutions. Since Facebook gives more options and more control, e-mail has become a feature rather than a platform.
But aren’t the lines blurring at the point of use? We’re seeing more social networking/profiles plugins into Email clients (e.g. Rapportive+gmail, LinkedIn+Outlook, etc.), and that allows you to keep a tab on both. Also, social clients are integrating email into social news streams (e.g. Threadsy), although I personally find that it adds to the mess by combining the two. I think both email and social networking are communications tools,- to each its own use and appropriateness.
What is a “global user” in the left-hand chart?Every social network requires an email address to register. It doesn’t take a PhD in counting to realize that this means social networking users can never pass email users.So what is Morgan Stanley counting? Number of accounts? All that means is that each person has more social networking accounts than they do email accounts. Number of active users? Without a definition of “global user”, it’s hard to make any sense of the chart on the left.
I was thinking the same thing.I also wonder what the times would look like if you included other forms of clients (eg. desktop email), which I would assume make up more than 33% of email usage…vs. desktop clients for SNS, which probably make up <1% of usage.
My next hack is called listaloo – it’s an all email social network. Command line for following and unfollowing and posting messages…but I mostly agree with you. I wish I could receive all communication via 140 @replies. I vastly prefer how it requires conciseness. On my angellist profile I listed @reply as my preferred way to have new people intro themselves to me
brad feld’s april fools this year was a post saying he was only taking inbound deals via twitter. like most humor, there’s some truth to it.
Does anyone know how social networking users was calculated? I assume it double, triple or quadruple counts users – people only have 1 or 2 e-mail accounts but they might have 4-6 social media accounts.The fact that both charts suggest social networking has surpassed e-mail is convincing ….
It’s nice to have options, and alternative channels of communication. Certainly the broadcast, no need to reply nature of Twitter, Facebook, or Open Social Standards (blogs, status.net, activity streams, etc) is wonderful for marketing an idea or opportunity.It’s hard to beat sitting down over coffee for communication, but google talk or skype with a shared desktop is pretty damn close.
What do you think of Threadsy, or the concept of unifying email + social networking. I’m trying it out…a bit like Buzz light or no-frills Buzz.
I experimented with it briefly. My only issue with funnelled services is the loss of service context. I’m facing it now with work on a feed based architecture. Symbols that uniquely identify users in Twitter (@victusfate) have limited meaning unless their linking and source is handled with care.If we’re not careful we can come across as inconsiderate of tight communities, by treating them as a promotional link dumping ground.
I hadn’t seen those graphs before–but had seen interesting ones about the frequency with which social network users and non-social network users check their email: http://nutshellmail.com/blo…. That article points to how social networking is increasing the value of a “universal inbox.”But I really like how you’ve added the time dimension to this discussion. Companies like mine (AwayFind) and RescueTime are really trying to deal with the attention management and interruption space, and clearly email is (percentage-wise) becoming a smaller piece of the puzzle.I’d enjoy seeing how your graphs would play out in medium-large businesses. I’d bet that the trends would be the same but much more time would still be spent in email.I’d be curious if someone like you who takes advantage of social networking but still has a lot of email correspondence fits the trend above–people who have high email volume generally don’t have a choice but to spend more time in email. Like you said, even as social networking volume grows, we can choose what to pay attention to. But with email, other people make that decision for us. I’d bet that your social networking time as a percentage of your overall activities would increase, but your fixed time in email would also be trending upward (or at least remaining a high percentage of your workday).Maybe when you bring on those two new hires you all could try some stats via RescueTime and see how they play out across the team for a few weeks. Me personally, even though I have an application aimed to keep people out of email, I still spent 27h there last week (planning a trip with lots of meetings, so that’s slightly high for me). But that still scares me. As a comparison I spent 3h on social networking.I guess all these just indicate I should be getting back to work…
You see, there are two elements to each type of communication: one is the underlying protocol, and the other one is the user interface/experience.Email is an excellent protocol, still better than *any* late alternative. However, most mail clients are still horrible (Gmail is a *slight* improvement); and I’m not talking only the visual experience, but the way traditional email clients are used. I would be a shame to see such a great technology such as email go to waste…
I’m not surprised – since it looks like that’s tracking the number of accounts rather than number of pure users, it makes sense. We all have Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Meetup, Plancast, etc. accounts, but most use only 1 or 2 email addresses. The lines continue to be blurred, and anything without a social component can’t survive in the new world.I think Marc Benioff is on to something with the new Salesforce tools unveiled last week, and I’ve been thinking a lot about this too. The next frontier, to me, is making business software and interactions as inherently social as Facebook, Twitter, et al.Long live the king, indeed.
Isn’t the problem you cite for email (inbound overload) a problem only experienced by a tiny number of email users? Most people I know are lucky to get more than 10 emails a day. For non-tech, relatively unknown people (i.e., the majority) I imagine email has a healthy future ahead of it.Also, as others have said, the two just seem like apples and oranges. One is for broadcast, the other for direct messaging.
when you include spam, most people get way more than 10 emails per day
It’s important to remember that nearly every social network and identity profile system defaults to email. Is there something not foundational about email that will never go away when it usually required to create a social-network account?
About 90% of social networking content is a waste of time… passing notes in jr. high study hall. Once you filter spam, a majority of email is real business content… quality stuff. Facebook = the worst of 1970-80s sitcom TV… opiate of the masses and a sign of our decline and fall. Foursquare? Is this an SNL skit? Who are these people? Don’t they have any real responsibilities in life?
that’s the same line of thinking that twitter is for telling people what youhad for lunchyou can keep your head in the sand and dismiss the power of this technologyor you can wake up and take advantage of it
I’d like to see some of this technology and huge investment $ challenge us to get to work addressing real problems… not playing video games and flirting with old high school classmates. We live in a world of extreme injustice, poverty, climate-change threats, war, etc…. and our best and brightest are either sucked into Wall St. chicanery or the next great Web dumb-us-down app. And, yes, I know that Iran and Haiti brave folks used Twitter… a hopeful step in the right direction… a bastardization of that technology for something useful. Perhaps Foursquare will be used by some innovative homeless family… Mayor of St. Andrews Soup Kitchen?
Your righteous indignation seems out of place on this blog, and your comments seem shortsighted. I’d actually argue that social networking could potentially help address some of the issues you bring up. Think twitter and the “Green Revolution” in Iran, think embedded philanthropy and the Red Cross (which you rightly point out), think foursquare and locally owned restaurants that might not have been able to compete with the larger chains in the recent past. Think… well you get the point.It’s all about connecting people to one another, which I think history has shown to be a very powerful weapon against injustice.And today I had a bologna sandwich for lunch.
You can’t force people to use a technology in a specific way. While technology has its own social norms and laws surrounding it, people can and will change away and towards it. What you can do is look at norms and see how they are changing and try pushing them in one direction or another.
Mike talked about the nobler aspects of social but lets say for arguments sake social netowrking is all about entertainment. I feel that you are vastly under estimating the value of entertainment to the human society. Whether we like it or not, humans need entertainment. There is a saying “Idle Brain is a devil’s workshop”For example there is new data showing that the biggest factor in slowing down the birth rate in rural india is the wide spread arrival of television in the last 10 years.Before tv, there were major problems with drinking & wife beating in rural india as there was no other form of entertainment for men. I think tv helps reduce that too.People just need to find other people who empathize with their world view and their circumstances to be happy. The new communication channels make it easy to find people who you like to spend time with and entertain themselves. 🙂
One of the most profound thoughts I have heard is “We learn everything about ourselves through mediation” Your comment reflects some of the truth of this, if you take an expansive view of what mediation is.
One of my favorite recent examples of a “social” tool being used for good, as you seem to describe it, is here: http://radar.oreilly.com/20…As access to these technologies continues to flow to those in more difficult situations, I guarantee you will start to see innovative uses to help serve them. It takes time for mass adoption of a new technology before it can truly be useful in a more out-of-the-box situation.
I’m a big fan of meetup (one of Fred’s investments). Also FrontPorchForum.com and Spot.Us
I agree with you on the fact that the real use cases for any new technology/medium will be discovered in due time and will be appreciated. Same reason I want to know your thoughs on the IPAD in 6 months. Right now the IPAD might be on the eliptical but I want to see where you put it in a few months. Of course you have a great intuition fine tuned by years of experience in being the early adopter but Id like to know if your initial thoughts on the IPAD are your final thoughts. :)I’d also be interested in what uses Josh or Emily or Jessica come up with for the IPAD in a few months. 🙂
Honestly- the best experiences I have had with twitter is at conference like situations (like the nytech meetup) where a group of people are chatting with questions about the conference in question. It provided super stimulating conversation in tandem to what was going on with 700 people, and questions by the presenters got answered more effienctly.I also really wish my college would embrace both the student and alumni community in classes and use tools like twitter to provide a more engaging classroom experience. I find no real reason to build silos of my class notes and questions vis a vis tools like twitter with my alumni community (or even just those interested). It would be such an interesting and engaging experience to have that kind of knowledge community that is expansive of age groups. I think it is absolutely amazing the amount I have learned in a variety of fields because of early stage tools to do similar activities, why not be formal about it. (this is from the experience of once tweeting out a class and being a bit disappointed at the results- I do think curation is a huge deal in this sort of situation)
The potential of a tool is extracted by clever, imaginative, reuse of its base functions. Never mind what the fools are not doing with the tools at hand.I kinda utilized your attitude to justify putting off the work involved it mastering social network possibilities.That was a big mistake. I am now left scrambling to get up to speed on the digital landscaping possibilities.I am old and slow so I have just begun to scratch the iceberg on this job! It is one of the reason I like Fred’s site. It makes a great ice pick.
I suspect it is not a case of “either or” but rather a case of “both and”. The issue will be made just a bit more complex by the nature of user and the application of the use as well as perceived security.This is a classic example of “convergence” wherein every possible combination and permutation of services and service delivery will slowly but surely be magnetically drawn into a single — but broad and rich — stream of communications and services.In some ways that is happening with the iPad, Kindle, smart phones — so it is not the least bit of a surprise that it is happening with the software.There is a very interesting comment in Fred’s blog. Fred elects to do first what is easier and more fun. That is one of the great, but obvious, revelations of business. Customers want ease of use and fun.
the power of ease and fun – great observation JLM
The problem with email is unsolicited mail / spam, not the medium itself. It’s no coincidence twitter won’t allow you to DM someone who doesn’t follow you.
Let’s hope that trend continues once their new ad platform is fully rolled out to all 3rd party applications.
I get that on facebook in the form of friends too. It’s a matter of how the medium works.
Yes, and even in Twitter you receive a lot of noise. You want to follow someone for some of his tweets, but you receive all of them. Automatic filters are the only possible future, be it for email or for social networks (if we are still able to define social networks in the future because every app will have some social side).
Now that would be the miracle bubble. It also would have profound social impact (too much of us living in our own little worlds, and how do you break through the bubble in order to connect for huge issues)
Isn’t it all about the default settings? We can set up email to have the same restrictions as the other mediums. It is just that people are not going to set it up. And the mass market interprets the medium to be the experience the default settings provide.
love the topic, fred. i’ve maintained that the informal nature of business in 2010 is one of the biggest differences in this generation. people like to do business with others whom they like, and communicating via twitter, facebook, linkedin, etc is much more personable —> so why would this not be a natural progression?
Social Networking makes communications fun, whereas email makes it a chore. So true.
I never saw email as a chore. Maybe this is because i grew up with it and every email I got was either an E-vite to a birthday party or a reminder for said birthday party. Email for me never came with a to-do list. It was always excitingWhen i joined a fraternity in college, we had a listserv (e-list) wherein any one of our members could send any message to anyone. It was basically social networking for 50 people, plus announcements, individual conversations, and making plans about dinner and the like. We tried to set up a message board initially or to “subscribe” to the chapter’s twitter updates, but since none of us checked twitter often, if at all (for the reasoning that “no one cares what you had for lunch today, why would you tell everyone?”), we never got the messages.I started college when facebook was just getting big, so i obviously had to check that and add my new “friends” every 10 minutes as well. I still use facebook to catch up with people i haven’t seen or heard from in a long time, but not near the frequency as when I was new to it.I check my email religiously. As long as my computer is on, i’m logged in and as soon as the “(1)” shows up on the tab, i need to know. Even now that I’m out of college, I still like to know what’s going on with my chapter. Who knows, there may be a particularly interesting issue that I can help to settle.
Wait until you get 300 emails/day 🙂
With the fraternity elist, I do. Especially on days when someone brings up israel/arab relations, health care, alternative energy, or any controversial topic. But because I have gmail (something that was recommended to me by an older brother before i was on the elist) it only seems like 3 really long conversations.It’s kind of like reading Fred’s blog all day haha.
You have no idea. And yes, I agree- it actually makes it hard to do “college business” on college campuses because of the massive traffic on those listhosts. I end up unsubscribing to some, and getting panicky that I missed others now that I am nearly gone. FYI you sound exactly like friends of mine in Frats- the emails were also super secretive too- frat gossip.
In open/social forums some people try harder to be entertaining.That can count for a lot.I laugh a lot more in social media, even when it’s the same people.Email can be so dry. By selecting e-mail as the medium, the writer is requesting some sort of actioned response. People don’t try hard enough to hook the reader.I think because of the public aspect of Social, and because a response is not required, people to try hook the reader more.Also it’s more fun to respond because each time you do you get the kick of having made someone feel good through your responding.In email your response was just something you’re supposed to do. Like taxes. It’s boring.
Taxes, not funny today.
you betcha, JLM
Whenever I interact via ‘SM’ apps, it feels more granular, more colourful – almost a 3D experience, narratively.By comparison, email seems very monochrome and ‘flat’ nowadays.
will be interesting to see if there will be continued communication fragmentation, inc multiple emails and social/enterprise networks…or whether consumers will backlash at some point to a few key platforms to simplify their lives. p.s. agree it’s easy to choose twitter over email!
I would like to look at this from the point of view of monetization. Although the number of social networking users might be higher and their total time spent on social-networks might be higher – can these users and their activities be monetized as well?I believe email will continue to provide higher margins as a product than social networking – as concerns of security and privacy will always make somebody’s email THE identity to own (which it is, in any case – even social networks require you to use that to create an account).Email is a service you expect quality-of-sevice from – social networking is not (yet) – but should be.Also, technically speaking, email always had a standardized protocol – it’s time protocols were standardized for what “friends” and “followers” are, what “status updates”/”tweets” are – only then can one expect a QoS based social-networking experience.
gmail is pushing email to a very low margin business
I don’t think that emails will vanish entirely, because the form the backbone of the internet. What do you need to sign up to Facebook, Twitter etc? Right, an email-adress of your own. It would help to think of email as something similar to your bank account. You don’t need it every day, but I am sure that you use money everyday while shopping or running errands.I will publish my view on this topic in my german blog medienlotse.wordpress.com tomorrow morning.
there is email as an identity system and email as a communication systemthe future of the former is surely bright
Perhaps I am wrong, but as I think about comscore metrics, I am inclined to think they do not capture app based access to social media services. They would definitely capture mobile device access via browser, but do they capture mobile app based access. If I think about my wife and kids, I would guess that more than half of their social media access is app based, not web based. Does anyone know if this is captured in the above numbers?
I think we’re confusing broadcast mediums here and uses. Social networks hide the email ibox while using it constantly (so many facebook emails, linkedin emails, etc, etc) Meanwhile, usually the vast majority of those messages are becausea) someone doesn’t have your email and are using the website to get to youb) a you to a small many broadcastc) you in a conversation with a many.B and C, even with lists and the CC feature, are much harder to do via email. A is resolvable by making email more public (which can be a huge intimacy thing, believe it or not)I’m not surprised to see the growth in social networking (it is online conversations) but when it comes to serious one to one, email will still be king. You can’t replace the intimacy and the fact that it is still a primary identity for a large amount of people.Though this might be due to the very very small age gap between me and your daughters. I do see messages as poorly managed email and would move over for social emails if someone made a good archiving/labeling/searching system. What a pain….
“I think we’re confusing broadcast mediums here and uses.”Wait a minute… I thoughtTHE MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGEthat McLuhan guy got me all messed up :-))
🙂 A more Mchluhan question: what part of the internet are hot medium andwhat are cold?(I mean it is about how do you broadcast and then receive the idea, which isinherently the medium)
“But even so, it looks like email’s reign as the king of communication is ending and social networking is now supreme.”Email’s reign ended quite a while ago. SMS usurped that role:http://communities-dominate…I’m not surprised by the social networking numbers. Social networking growth is happening in parallel with mobile growth. They amplify each other.
right, sms is also huge. thanks for pointing that out
It feels as if there is something of a return to basics happening with the consolidation of communication through a social network. Way back when (admittedly, when I was a kid), the majority of social/business interactions of any meaning occurred face to face. That gave you a huge amount of information about the person with whom you were interacting.Email largely fractured that paradigm by divorcing the straight text of communication from a large amount of useful context (conveying subtlety through email remains difficult for most people). However, what it lost in context, it made up through rapidity and ease of distribution.Enter the social network as interface for communication. You have a much richer picture of the person communicating with you, but still have the efficiency gains provided by technology. It’s something of a middle ground between the extremes.
We’re probably going back to a much richer era. Video is supposedly going to be available soon to carry around with you in the US. I wonder what the protocol will be to not answer a video call on the go.
I don’t actually think that video is the logical next step here, in fact, it would feel a bit like a way backward if the advantage provided by email/social communication is the rapidity with which we can consume it.I know that I can read and process much faster than I can digest a video. If communication was all video based, you’d again be at an extreme of the communication spectrum, albeit leveraged by technology.
I’m still not convinced by many people here that you can rid yourself oflittle bits of your physical body with a digital body, especially a textbased one. Video seems to be growing in number. We know we intensely liketo look at other people, and that nuance is often conveyed with bodylanguage. Rapidity is nothing compared to some conversations that need to godeep. Video is for the circumstances where depth is critical.
How about mixing text and video modes?Text for info organization and summary.Video snippets for emotional or conceptual context.
something slightly on a tangent:how many of you all get a voicemail but reply by text, or get an email but reply through facebook, or get something on your facebook wall and you reply through twitter? ad infinitum…
I think it comes down to a shift in communication standards. For many people I know, e-mail is more or less used for formal correspondence. Before, e-mail and IM was really the only way. But now, social networking is for conversations with friends. Also I think it represents a turn towards more openness on the internet, which is why you’ll see messages that used to be confined in e-mails now posted on facebook walls or public tweets.
I am not surprised at the data. But time spent is inflated significantly because Sites like Facebook refuse to explain how they measure time spent. Log in time vs time spent on the site are incredibly different numbers. I have mentioned this before. If I log into Facebook or Twitter and leave the page up in a tab all day, but really only go to that tab for 10 minutes each, do they record 10 minutes or 8 hours? 8 hours helps their IPO efforts, so we know what they are recording.I would cut time spent by 20% at least to have a stab at reality. For example I am logged into 4 Twitter accounts via Tweet deck while I type this. All this time is being recorded by Twitter as time spent using the service for 4 accounts!Social networks definitely enhance communication, especially among strangers. But for the people truly in my life, friends, family etc in person,phone,email, and sms text still trump everything. And I agree with your view for email. We still want private communication and will continue too.
Can social networking truly surpass email when there is no single unified platform? If you need to reach someone typically you can count on them receiving an email. There are too many options for social networking communication – “should I use FB, Twitter, LinkedIn, FourSquare, etc. Which platform does this person prefer and check most regularly? I better just email…..wait, which email will they check first?….better yet, i’ll txt….”Privacy/content is also a factor in choosing a communication platform.
So when will text surpass voice? Or has it already?
According to a Microsoft presentation at VoiceCon this year, cell phone users text 1.7 times more than they make a phone call. And, teenagers (millennials) text 10 times more than they make a phone call. So, perhaps it has!
I think the evolution of social networking as a dominant form of communication represents our need for online channels that more accurately match our offline communication preferences/habits. Social networking is light, like casual conversations with friends. It is even better actually since it is not time or location dependent. Email has always been better for larger (size, importance, etc.) communications and not great for small banter. Social networking is filling these holes.
I imagine this doesn’t count corporate email?And does “social” counts SMS?And should “social” include Disqus?
What a stupid comparison. That’s like saying there are more people who use cell phones than use greeting cards. The two types of communication are completely different. You can’t replace email with a Web page. It doesn’t do the same job.I also agree with several people who pointed out that there are many people who have one or two email accounts and 15 or 20 “social networking” accounts. It doesn’t take many of them to really warp this statistic.
@William Mougayar is spot-on with his comment. Social and e-mail have had significant overlap (and social networks have relied on e-mail for growth, notifications, etc.) This year seems to be shaping up as the year of all-out social + e-mail convergence (Rapportive, Threadsy, etc., and mainstream players like Yahoo, Outlook 2010…).Being mindful of the appropriate use of each (particularly in terms of marketing) is the key.
“Email’s biggest problem is the inability to control other’s power to email you.” Well said. Social networks’ biggest challenge may be resisting the temptation to take that control away from us for their own financial gain. Examples include intrusive Facebook app notifications (“your friend became a fan of…”) or Twitter’s concept of in-timeline ads (aka Promoted Tweets). A few interuptions in my social media inbox are fine, but that’s a slippery slope.
i don’t believe twitter has any intention of spamming your timeline
Yep, I was just referring to Twitter’s announcement that they plan to display Promoted Tweets in our timelines and that by doing so, they remove our ability to choose what appears there. I don’t think Twitter intends to spam us. They hope that the Promoted Tweets will be relevant and useful. They will have to find a balance, though, between relevance and monetization… something Facebook seems to have been struggling with through their app notification / wall post features. I trust that Twitter has good intentions while creating a revenue stream, but the minute they put a Promoted Tweet in my timeline, I lose some control over what appears there.
yes and noresonance is based on RTs, replies, favorites, clicks on links, clicks onhashtags, etcand if a tweet doesn’t have resonance, it won’t get into timelinesso you and everyone else get to vote on what gets into timelines
I spent more time reading the comments here this morning than my email. Do the comments sections on blogs count as social network time? ( it would make sense to me )
Really think we are at a tipping point in communications online. I hate having to go to so many places to check different types of email type messaging – Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Mail. Facebook’s private messaging is really email by another name. Twitter (and the Facebook newsfeed) streams are obviously very different – I would hate to have all tweets in my inbox. But what would be great would be to combine these different email-like boxes into one single mailbox which has a social networking layer to it – really its just email by another name.
Maybe the upcoming launch of Facebook email will drive people away from hotmail, google mail etc.. that would be an interesting outcome..
Call me crazy, but I don’t see where the fun in one on one communication via social networks is. Why would I want to entrust my personal communication with a company with complete control of the standard and protocol? I don’t know if there’s a limit to the length of a facebook message, for example, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there were (I had a hell of time one day a few weeks ago trying to fit everything I needed to in one facebook wall post). In gmail, I’ve got an interface that destroys anything facebook has ever produced, the best organizational options (tags), the best search, etc. I can forward my incoming email anywhere else. Why anyone would want to be constrained by facebook is beyond me. Honestly, if I get a personal facebook message from anyone, that’s an instant mark against them. It just seems so….juvenile.Facebook and other networks ARE fun, but for public communication. To me, that’s the point of them. I post a photo publicly, and people that I don’t explicitly send it to can see it, comment on it, laugh at the funny comments that others are making, etc.Essentially I see it as:Facebook – good for public communication (at least mostly public – i.e. within your network)Email – good for private communicationTwitter – good for…..? (I still don’t get it, but yes, I know I’m in the minority here. I have a few people whose tweets I follow, and I simply view them as an rss feed).
It does not even make sense to compare the global users unless they are uniques across all platforms. To have any social network account you HAVE to use email, so it is impossible for social networking users to surpass email users without counting multiple accounts per user (Facebook, Foursquare, Myspace, LinkedIn, etc). Email is a backbone to ALL online communication.The second graph and “time spent” is a truer recognition of communication use of the platforms. But email is never going away.
What I see in the charts is that social media is many to many, so content gets viewed many magnatudes more than e-mail does.The analogy with usage would be if you prefer to use a music discovery service, or a music library. There’s room for both, same as if you want to go to a party or have a dinner with friends.What would be helpful is imposing global minutes of newspaper and television viewing on the chart cause I suspect you’d see that people are getting more of what they individually want from digital channel, emphasis on ‘individually’. Going out that differentiated vector is the interesting part.
email is just a part of the mix; as are updates (or short emails of old). It has its place and over time I think “social networks” becomes a layer of the net with tools making us of it.
its not so much who is the new King – – firstly there’s an increase of communications and communicativeness because there are more “highways & vehicle types” – and secondly these new highways and vehicles are supporting/enabling different communication needs/opportunities – from the more personal & private or “rifle” approach to the more widespread and “trans-personal” – or the shotgun approach.Long live eMail, relatively tightly (e.g. Facebook) and relatively loosely knit Social Communities (Twitter) ….
Another concept that has been bouncing around my brain recently is that the economics of mass communication is rapidly changing. “Fan Pages” and twitter accounts are the ultimate opt-in list for marketers and those wishing to spread a message. Go look at the biggest twitter accounts and facebook pages out there and you’ll see that they are in the MILLIONS of subscribers. If you tried to send an email to an opt-in list of a million people, you’d have all sorts of technical hurdles to overcome, let alone whether someone would ever open your message or get past the spam filter.Now that a politician or a company or another influencer can instantly send messages to millions at an effective cost of $0.00, a lot has changed. Your message is going to end up in the ‘stream’ and your brand awareness is going to be higher, by default.When Fred checked his twitter stream, he was exposed to countless more messages, brands, personalities and ideas in a shorter period of time than email could accomplish. It’s almost a time-efficiency-self-selector happening without ever really thinking about it.Though, I’m guessing some sort of ‘stream’ aggregator is coming to the iPad sometime soon that is going to blow all of this out of the water….
It’s not though because we’re lazy lazy bums when it comes to subscribing and unsubscribing.
yikes! just starting to enjoy the ability to make new friends on twitter, but i feel sorry for e-mail…
The Inbox Could See New Life This Year http://goo.gl/fb/9eKkP
For me the leading indicator on this was about 3 years ago when I heard leadership at one of the (unnamed) massive ‘professional service’ firms was freaking out because their incoming analysts (thousands of them) were using Facebook as their work operating system instead of the hyper-secure corporate email system, on client work.
i love it!
knowing what’s making auditors nervous can be a great early indicator of rising opportunity.naturally, it can also be an indicator that something really stinky is going on.but it’s worth looking, and deciding for yourself which bucket it falls into.
I think the issue is that the cat is out of the bag. Email can no longer be undone, and I’m not sure there is a do over for it. Backwards compatibility is a tough shoe to fill also (look at $MSFT’s dedication to IE6). So, we’re likely left with email client variance or a Facebook-like scenario (a walled garden). Ultimately, you’ll need (more than) critical mass to unseat email and its decentralized nature.
I’ll add that the irony is that social networking would not have flourished without email. From facebook to twitter follow and dm alerts, email has played a crucial role. Email is a social networking conduit.
Hello Fred,Two things.(1) Is their a public notification list for getting those type of Morgan Stanley reports?It comes up in their search, but I didn’t find it on the site otherwise.Any tips for “ordinary” non-venture-capitalist type of guys and gals welcome.(2) The standpoint of fun and easy is a persuasive one.Social networks: avatars, pictures, videos, blurbs … easy to respond to informally.versusEmail Client: An incomprehensible wall of letters from a packed inbox OR an empty page that induces writer’s block.I agree with other comments that the overload issue of email can be solved with existing tools (filters, special purpose, non public email addresses, …) but it’s NOT BUILT IN. That’s the problem.And by the way: Many people just duplicate the overload issues on social networks by friending and following each and everyone. :-)Social capital, #of friends/followers, at the price of usability.Email and social platforms will continue to converge (I wonder how Google Wave will be doing in 1 year. I digress, sorry.) but email will be around for quite some time. Ever tried to sign up to Facebook or Twitter without an email address? :-)Maybe a mobile phone number will take it’s place as identifier for a physical, real person. It’s happening partly anyway. In the EU anonymous pre-paid mobile phone are basically outlawed now. And many authentication systems (including eGovernment) are focused around mobile not email (more vulnerable).An interesting time we are living in.
i’m on morgan stanley’s email listthe irony of it!!
Oh my….ever since my office started using Yammer, the emails in my inbox (those that matter) fell to a single digit level. I will keep using email until social media start to incorporate cc and bcc, and allow attachment, and then the email might be gone. Funny we are now discussing whether or not to delete Fax number from our business card…
that is so promising. i am envious
Let’s hope that they all converge in the near future. Facebook integration with forums is one step in the correct direction, as it quickly becomes tedious to manage an online presence.Alternative community services geared toward specific segments of the population (Ex. Steam: gamers) are great resources, but having it shouldn’t be necessary to use different log-in’s for each social network. Using a different handle and password for each community, sometimes out of necessity because the handle is already taken or passwords have certain alpha/numeric requirements begins to wear on users as well.Should services on day combine their efforts and have a single log-in for a number of communities, I believe that social platforms will greatly exceed the communication of just using e-mail. The caveats are clear though: if anyone ever gained access to that master username/password one’s online presence could quickly be compromised. Just my two cents.
Facebook messages are really just emails. Facebook messaging today is similar to what it was like in the early 90’s when you couldn’t send email from AOL to Compuserve or Prodigy. Myspace has already opened up to email and it seems pretty likely that Facebook will do the same. Social networking won’t replace email, it will become email.
Great post, Fred – I think your thoughts here are pretty interesting, in light of Google Wave and Buzz launching earlier in the year. Despite the similar features they had with Twitter/Facebook, they both failed to draw any meaningful attention or engagement back to email as a medium for social networking.I think that says a lot about what makes social networking truly stand out from email. It transcends features. I think it has more to do with the realness of the context.I could shoot a quick email to a friend or acquaintance I haven’t seen in a while, but it takes a few minutes to start that initial conversational thread. It’s more natural and fluid on social networks though… recent status updates, pictures, recent events, etc all provide ample context for that initial “hi”. It’s quick and lighter weight, as you point out.Approx 80% of the world’s email is spam, so it’s no surprise why it’s falling behind today. The more real the context, the harder the network, the stronger it becomes as a communication channel.
i think it is worth studying wave and buzz to figure out why they failed
From time when I took peek of friend’s personal inbox’ subject list, most are just notification mails, or some spam leaking through the filter.But agree with the point about reach and fun.Even without trying to be fun, someone could just “talk to themselves in the middle of the world” and because of the easiness, their contacts replied lightly on it.And about the fun part. In place like Facebook, personal messaging is not the whole experience. They have other things to waste time with. I imagine like gathering with friends on the street and go for a tour instead of gathering in a restaurant and go home after eating.They stayed there longer, and more likely to respond faster. I think this happened with some freelance folks I worked with. Some almost never check their e-mail, but stayed nearly around the clock in Facebook. Prompt reply is more likely.
Facebook messages are extremely clumsy in comparison to email, despite spam. E.g., you can quickly search your email with keywords, have the email automatically classified under labels etc.It is best to use email, so that people can have the different email software providers compete with each other. Of course, I do send Facebook messages to strangers when it would take time to find their email addresses.
Any idea what happened in summer 08? Both email and social networking users graphs (left diagram) went up by around 100 units. The report pdf doesn’t contain any information on that.
Social networks reduce friction and improve group dynamics in a way that email does not.
As email is just one of hundreds of things you can now do on social networking sites, it’s hard to draw conclusions from this data without knowing the activities being counted in ‘social networking.’ Maybe when I can play poker in Outlook my email usage will go up!
This doesn’t surprise me. I know, personally, I check my Facebook page WAY more often than I check my email inbox. It’s faster, more entertaining, and easier to make a quick note on somebody’s page, rather than type out a whole email and wait for a response. It’s all about instant gratification– that’s what people go for these days. It’s a microwave world. :o)
I think it’s ironic that you think email has an inbox overload problem, but you don’t think the same is true (or at least do say so in this post) for twitter, facebook, and comment flow. email is mission critical, SMS as well, facebook and twitter are nice-to-have. When social media is “can’t miss” in terms of message importance, then you’ll have a Facebook inbox overload problem too, multiplied by the # of “can’t miss” services.
social networking is never “can’t miss”that’s what makes it so greatemail and sms increasinly are the “can’t miss” mediums
Can you really compare these two apples to apples? Social Networking likely comprises social gaming (a la Farmville) which would certainly skew the time spent metric.The metric that’s missing here is active users – perhaps logged in within the last 7 days. Many email accounts go dormant, but so too do Twitter, Facebook and MySpace etc.
The Morgan Stanley data on email users is silly. They say there are 1.8B people online worldwide, and there are been stats consistently published over the years that between 80-95% of people online use email.This report from Radicati has the number of email users worldwide growing from 1.4B last year to 1.9B over the next few years. That sounds more like it. http://www.radicati.com/?p=…
Yeah. I’m wondering about the data. But regardless the slopes of the curves foretell where we are headed
There’s no question that people spend more time in social networks and will continue to. They’re more multi-faceted. But that “error” in reporting on number of email addresses pretty dramatically changes the two charts. There’s another data question I have as well around how the counting works. For example, I have 2-3 email accounts, but I have 10-12 social network accounts. Am I counted once in each category, or 2-3 in the first and 10-12 in the second? Or worse, once in the first and 10-12 times in the second?
Email has one big advantage, I own my data (depending what email provider of choice). We will see where FB&Co. will go, how they evolve.
Hi Fred, this is what we are banking on at cohuman. Email is jut not clever enough to know what is or is not important to you or your social or business network. All managers know that email overload is a (exponential) function of nodes in your network. Further, spam has also undermined the efficacy of the medium. Hopefully business will learn how to reap the rewards of the social media communication paradigm.www.cohuman.com
Search on social networking is a huge huge issue that we need to sort out because search v people are often two different issues that overlap. It feels often like studying the human genome- once you unravel it, great mysteries of the way people interact and spread information will be resolved. In the meantime we’re not sure how to rank ourselves and our information next to our friend’s friend’s friends (got that) which is often the location of the information we need. Whoever cracks that problem…