Goodbye email - hello social?
09:28 on Tue, 10 Jan 2012 | Social Media | 2 Comments
If, like me, you returned to work after the Christmas break with a mountain of emails sitting in your inbox, you probably spent the first couple of days trawling through, replying to the most important, flagging those which needed an action or response and deleting the spam. However, if recent predictions come true, this process could soon be rendered obsolete as more of us turn to social media and instant messaging to communicate with one another.
As 2011 ended, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg nailed his colours to the mast, saying: “We don’t think a modern messaging system is going to be email”. Now this got me thinking as I tackled my ever-creaking inbox: ‘do businesses really need email?’ and if not just how likely is it that the mountain of emails that haunt many of us on a daily basis will soon be replaced?
There’s no doubting social media’s popularity. Not only does it let you communicate with customised groups of people at the touch of a button, it’s a great way to find out what’s going on in your industry. Compared to email, which can often feel like a very lonely system, social media is alive with thought, debate and awareness. News breaks instantly and hashtags create easy-to-follow conversations. Comments are easy to track too, removing the need to search for what people said and when, while status updates can be used to let people know that you are genuinely busy and not just ignoring their messages!
However, despite the enormous amount of benefits that social media has over the standard email system I don’t think it is going anywhere. According to the Radicati Group there are currently 3.1 billion email accounts in the world - given that the world’s population is just over 7 billion, that’s pretty impressive. In fact, they estimate that the number of email accounts will increase to 4.1 billion by 2015…that's hardly a death knell for a system which has been around since 1971.
Yet regardless of the numbers involved I think it’s the functionality offered by email which will continue its life. Unlike social media email provides traceable trails, read receipts, the ability to attach important files and have secure conversations – all of which are so crucial in business.
What I would like to see an end to is unnecessary internal emails. It doesn’t happen here at Team Further of course (we actually talk to each other and use Skype instant messaging to raise awareness of useful websites for example!), but how many of us get sent a stream of messages from our colleagues who sit within easy reach? Perhaps the real debate is not the end of email but actually having a conversation instead - now that's real social...