Why email is becoming the new snail mail

Neilsen is reporting that time spent on social networking sites has grown by a whopping 43% over the past year, while time spent on email plummeted by 28%. Could it be that email is on it’s way to joining Betamax and AOL on the island of outmoded technology?

It’s clear that email usage is getting attacked on multiple fronts. Why take the time to compose an email to a buddy when you can fire off an obnoxious text message instead? That video of a bunch of frat boys trying to swallow a tablespoon of cinnamon is no longer disseminated in a mass email. Facebook, Twitter, Digg and a host of other services work so much better.

It’s hard to believe, but email, which once seemed so magical and hip, is now the slow, stodgy way to communicate. Birthday wishes, plans for a rendezvous, a recommendation about a book and a whole laundry list of other things that seemed perfect for good, old-fashioned electronic mail are now much more effectively transmitted through newer, more agile channels. Email is something I now use primarily for work and sharing news with my grandparents (seriously).

It will be very interesting to see where these trends go. The continuing shift toward social media presents a real challenge for marketers, especially in today’s fiercely ROI-focused environment. Leveraging these social channels in a way that drives measurable revenue is a daunting hill to climb.

It seems unlikely that email will go away completely. I see it more as this generation’s fax, as it continues to be useful and ubiquitous in business contexts. I’m just glad that the days of irritating email forwards seem to be over. Now, if I could just find a way to kill Farmville…

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