Email and Facebook: In a Relationship



Email – I can’t imagine my life without it – is probably going away, Sheryl Sandberg Facebook’s COO boldly claimed at the Nielsen’s Consumer 360 conference earlier this summer.

Obviously, We beg to differ!

On the contrary, it seems obvious to us that email is stronger than ever – particularly when used hand-in-hand with social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

In fact, in our recent survey of email marketers, we found that:

  1. 33% reported integrating social media and email marketing has increased their subscriber base.
  2. 30% reported after integrating social media and email marketing they saw an increase in friends/fans/followers.

With email and social working hand-in-hand, how could email possibly go away?

The Allegation

Just as the Wall Street Journal made the claim that 2009 was “the end of the email era,” Sandberg spoke for Facebook, suggesting that the use of social media will bring about the demise of email.

Our Rebuttal

Email is still alive, thriving and only helping social media become an even more powerful tool than it already is.

The Nielsen Company, the same organization that held the conference that brought about the controversial claim, agrees. The results of their 2009 study of email and social media use indicate that “social media use makes people consume email more, not less…particularly for the highest social media users.”

The Nielsen Company

“If you want to know what people like us will do tomorrow, you look at what teenagers are doing today,” Sandberg touted.

So let’s take a look at what they are doing today. In a 2009 survey of people 18-24, the Participatory Marketing Network and Pace University found that the majority of those surveyed would rather abandon social networks long before they stopped using email.

Generation Y spends a large amount of time on social sites. Their average time spent on social networks each month is 33 hours, making them high social media users.

When they were asked which activity they would least like to give up for one week, only 9% said social networks, as compared to 26% for email.

Generation Y Survey Results

Graph from Marketing Charts via WebProNews.

That doesn’t sound to us like email is going anywhere any time soon. In fact, take a look at what positive effects the respondents of our recent survey have had with email and social media:

AWeber Survey

Clearly, there’s a correlation between the two mediums, and there is some truth to Ms. Sandberg’s presentation. As she attests, “Facebook connects people in really extraordinary ways.”

There are 400 million people who use Facebook worldwide. It obliterates communication barriers and can put you in touch with people all over the globe who otherwise would never have come in contact with your business or brand.

Working Together

When it comes down to it, people are people. Whether you are growing your email list or looking for people to “like” your brand on Facebook, any and all eyeballs on your service are welcome.

You have to remember that social networks rely on email in the most basic sense. Facebook requires an email address to log on, and their emails notify you of updates, friend requests and comments.

Rather than deny the importance of email, Facebook should embrace it! The two make a rather powerful pair – both play a significant role in that relationship.

They have the potential to increase awareness of the other and encourage users to participate with both mediums and they cultivate and nurture true brand advocates.

If you use social media and email together, or have ideas of your own for using Facebook or other social media sites along with email to create the biggest buzz, please share them below!

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28 Comments

  1. Even standard/physical mail is still viable for direct marketers, so it’s a little early to predict the demise of e-mail :). Social media is important, but e-mail is still the most efficient way to communicate directly with customers.

    Here is my prediction for e-mail in the future:
    http://www.rickkettner.com/killer-app-auto-filter/

    8/12/2010 11:36 am
  2. H A

    In my experience, emails subscribers and facebook fans just suggest the level of attraction a person has towards the site’s content. One who is strongly attracted subscribes to the email or both, while one who is weakly attracted becomes a fan.

    8/14/2010 9:49 am
  3. I would feel more comfortable with a longer term strategy in place. I don’t think email will die out, but we may need to change our approach to stay ahead of the game when the next generation of teenagers enter the marketing arena.

    A recently overhead discussion between 14 year old teenagers, who were chatting about how they organize their social and school lives, revealed that email was almost gone and that Facebook had taken over. At my son’s school, the teachers started sending out communiques to pupils through Facebook about 2 years ago.

    Perhaps the evolution of emails mirror that of books and our reading practices. I don’t think that real books will be superseded by downloadable books for Kindles and ‘I’ gadgets – all the time that there a people around who know how a real book feels when you’re sat in your armchair turning the pages.

    But consider this – the moon landing will soon pass out of living memory.

    These 14 year old guys I mentioned above didn’t have email addresses and saw no reason to get one. Unless we can find them some compelling reason to persuade them to open an email account when they become buyers and business people, what will happen?

    8/15/2010 4:22 am
  4. I am successfully using email and Facebook in a synergistic way.

    When I recently created a new product, I created a Facebook page for it. I sent my email subscribers to that page, they "Like"-ed it, which brought their friends there, and that page led some of these new people to a squeeze page, so I could grow my list. ..

    Now I can use that bigger list to send traffic back to my Facebook page, and so on.

    8/17/2010 5:33 am
  5. Michael Golzmane

    LOL! I’m not sure that was wise of you to base an entire blog post on an assertion that I had never heard before–that email is dying out. You’ve just successfully INTRODUCED the entire scope of that doubt to your customers. It certainly got my thinking.

    Great job! ;-)

    8/17/2010 9:48 am
  6. I wouldn’t be able to do my business without email. I go out and find opportunities, clients and people and would definitely not be able to strictly contact people through just FB or Twitter or any other social media means. While 14 year olds may not have a need for email, that doesn’t mean they won’t ever have a need. They’re 14, after all, they don’t have any business needs, therefore don’t need an email address.

    Email is generally better to use than a social media outlet when contacting someone about business. Unless, that is, your FB revolves around your business, but even then, it’s still far more professional to contact someone over email than it is over a social media venue.

    Email and social media, I believe, will always integrate with one another. Email is not going to die out anytime soon.

    8/17/2010 9:51 am
  7. The integration of all things common will continue to evolve, as we find value in future Life and all that new intelligence brings us.

    It’s simply amazing.

    8/17/2010 9:52 am
  8. Greg

    Ummm… not to rain on your parade Sian… but if the kids didn’t have an email then how did they sign up for Facebook?

    The facts is that as a 14 y/o they do not need to use email as we know it… but even 14 y/o kids grow up and join the workforce… where they will be able to browse social media all day? I don’t think so.

    Show me how to launch a social media site without email or an organisation that will drop email in favour of Facebook and then I may start to worry…

    Social media is a powerful marketing tool, no doubt about that and as marketers we should be embracing it in concert with our email campaigns but it does not sit comfortably with mainstream business communication nor on-line shopping experiences, both of which will serve to keep email in vogue long after we are gone.

    It is actually all opportunity out there as far as I can see and Synergy is definitely its name.

    8/17/2010 10:02 am
  9. Great article Rebecca. Good work with the facts!

    @Sten: We were doing the same thing but after tracking opt-ins from FB we abandoned this. There wasn’t a lot of traffic as compared to quality SEO and other tricks we use.

    I know people buy from FB and they like to interact there… for sure… but I’d love to hear your experience with the process. Did you create fan pages or just FB pages? We’ve heard fan pages are the way to go.

    8/17/2010 10:28 am
  10. I would think that Sheryl Sandberg’s comments were to hype up her personal desire to have her organization’s infrastructure used. I know people who do not have email accounts, people who do not have FB accounts, and people who do not have either one!

    I personally do not know people who only use FaceBook as their email. I do not think that will go away easier. Anything on FaceBook automatically becomes property of FaceBook (people may not realize that!) and that include the messages/email and and postings you upload.

    For me, I prefer to have my own hosting and be in control of what I share.

    8/17/2010 11:53 am
  11. Good point Greg! Perhaps I misunderstood the teenage grunts and they just don’t bother to use them anymore. Great comments and an interesting discussion.

    8/17/2010 12:51 pm
  12. Email won’t die. Even social media network rely a lot on emails to send out alerts and messages to keep their users coming back to their application.

    8/17/2010 5:34 pm
  13. Hi Paul,

    Can you explain what you mean by “Anything on FaceBook automatically becomes property of FaceBook”? If I uplod videos and photos to facebook, in what way is that the property of facebook now?

    Thanks for clarification

    8/17/2010 8:58 pm
  14. If email were to “go”…a form of it would have to exist.
    The very nature of messages/mail via electronic/digital delivery is e-mail based, isn’t it?
    What about when messages to buy, via your smart phone start happening?
    Is or will that be via a Face Book advertisement to opt in or a simple email notification?
    Possibly big & clunky domain name emails might be phased out in favour of the simple Gmail.com platform…
    Probably Big G owns all your communication, ideas, patents & house plans sent via that too?
    Interesting thoughts for sure…

    8/18/2010 12:30 am
  15. Paul B. Taubman, II

    Louisa -

    I spoke a little early, but my statement still stands. I searched for the original article I read – i found it at:
    http://consumerist.com/2009/02/facebooks-new-terms-of-service-we-can-do-anything-we-want-with-your-content-forever.html

    It looks like the Terms have changed, however, today, it still reads:

    For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (“IP content”), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (“IP License”). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.

    source: http://www.facebook.com/terms.php

    I am not a legal advisor, nothing I say means anything in a court of law or even to a police officer :-)

    I stand corrected – the content is still your property, you simply give FaceBook the rights to do anything they want with it (to me, that sounds like they own it also). I am sure there is a fine line someplace… I don’t want to find it :-)

    Hope this helps.

    8/18/2010 8:49 am
  16. Wow, that’s a strong comment by Sheryl… Too bad she couldn’t be more wrong! Great article though.

    8/18/2010 2:56 pm
  17. Absolutely they go hand in hand. I can’t imagine why Facebook would see email as the enemy. Emails still give you the privacy and directness of one to one.

    8/18/2010 9:37 pm
  18. H E

    I’m with Michael Golzmane…as I read the article and saw the graphs, I thought about how email IS dying out compared to social media. Social media can go viral much more quickly than email can. And of course AWeber deals with emails and newsletters, hence the stance, but when I saw 30 % and 33%, that kinda told me the story there.

    Why aren’t those numbers higher? Usually you advertise high rates, like 60-70% or more. So looks like the wise thing to do is to keep some teenagers around and learn about what is gonna be the next big thing.

    8/19/2010 7:27 am
  19. Great conversation, everyone! Love hearing your takes.

    Michael,

    Why wouldn’t it be wise of us to bring this up? Nothing wrong with sparking some thought. :) And I suspect that when you’ve considered all sides of the issue, you’ll conclude that email is here to stay.

    Besides, even if email were going away in favor of something else, at AWeber we’d put ourselves well ahead of the curve in figuring out what that something else would be and how we can add value to it for businesses looking to market themselves using it. No sense in fearing something when you can address it head-on. This sort of discussion that may seem so new to some is the sort of thing it behooves us to regularly think about as a marketing software provider.

    Paul and Sian,

    What’s interesting is that I know a few people who almost exclusively use Facebook’s messaging rather than email (unless forwarding something), but they’re all a good bit OLDER than me, not younger. That’s not to say that my anecdotal experience is indicative of a broader trend, but it certainly does make me wonder…

    8/19/2010 8:44 am | Follow me on Twitter
  20. As a well known social media marketer I have to say that email is not going anywhere.

    We have 60,000 social followers in all.

    My small email list I host on AWeber outperforms my social following by far.

    I do want to point out two major things though.

    20 somethings are vastly less apt to use email. So social networks are a great tool when it comes to connecting with this very apt to buy demographic.

    Secondly, watch as Google Buzz become the social application that converts social friends into email subs and product buyers. Why? Well for one thing over 3 million college students return to school with new Google Apps accounts waiting as their document and email provider. We expect Buzz and Google Me to integrate into apps soon.

    Second, Google Buzz is a part of Gmail. This is the only email based social app there is, and anything that gets my subscribers into their Gmail inbox means my emails get read more often. Yours too.

    We are having more success with discussions on Buzz than on our blog. Our best to date pulled 150+ comments, 35 likes and 25 trackbacks. Not bad for our first 3 months on Buzz.

    8/19/2010 10:39 am
  21. Jayne

    It is a Aweber doesn’t integrate with Facebook Pages and only with personal accounts. As a marketing tool you may find that the majority of aweber users would prefer their business pages to be integrated than their personal page. Is aweber working on this?

    8/19/2010 7:16 pm
  22. M

    I’m actually going to run a Facebook ad to encourage people to sign up for our newsletter list. I totally agree with this blog post. They are both powerful and inherently intertwined.

    8/20/2010 6:51 pm
  23. W

    If email were to “go” a form of it would have to exist. The very nature of messages/mail via electronic/digital delivery is e-mail based, isn’t it?

    What about when messages to buy, via your smart phone start happening?
    Is or will that be via a Facebook advertisement to opt in or a simple email notification?

    Possibly big & clunky domain name emails might be phased out in favour of the simple Gmail.com platform?

    Probably Big G owns all your communication, ideas, patents & house plans sent via that too?

    Interesting thoughts for sure.

    8/22/2010 5:27 am
  24. I’m pretty new to this email marketing. I used Facebook before using aWeber and even hearing that claim from Sheryl Sandberg has not put me in doubt about using email marketing at all.

    Of course Facebook would make a claim like that considering they want everybody to use their platform completely.

    Making a post like this one only makes me trust the strength of Aweber even more.

    8/26/2010 5:32 am
  25. I agree that email is probably not going away, but it certainly is becoming less and less relevant, at least for personal matters.

    8/26/2010 6:38 am
  26. Here’s what I’ve discovered in order to share and create more buzz using Facebook and Comments on your blogs.

    There is an application plugin for WordPress and for Joomla that is called "Facebook Comments". The advantage of this application is that it makes your visitor comment using their Facebook profile. The system will automaticly recognize if they are already signed into their account therefore allowing to comment without registering.

    It also allows people who are not registered with Facebook to leave comments by entering their names and e-mail.

    The most interesting part about this application is that by default there is a check in the check box "publish on my wall" which means anytime someone wishes to leave a comment, it will show up on their wall and all their friends news feed wich makes it grow viral and pretty fast.

    I just installed it on my site, you can see what it looks like if you scroll all the way down to the comments area of this page

    http://www.residual-income-opportunity.info/residual-income-opportunity/94/become-the-expert-in-your-opportunity/

    Hope this helps.

    9/3/2010 2:19 am
  27. I would imagine even Facebook agrees you need an e-mail address, because without one you would not be able to create an account to my knowledge. Not only that but I am sure more then half of my e-mail list doesn’t have a Facebook account to date. Just can’t imagine not having at least one e-mail address.

    1/25/2011 11:50 am

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