When telephones achieved critical mass, letter writing quickly lost the mantle of most efficient means of communication. It was still better for delivering messages, but that’s a subset of communication. When trying to get in touch with someone quickly and efficiently, the phone was faster, cheaper, and more convenient. Letter writing didn’t die, but the US Postal Service definitely took Alexander Graham Bell off their Christmas card list.
It’s possible we could be seeing a similar, albeit less dramatic, transition today from email to a more efficient means of communicating. It would be impossible to list all the benefits email has had on the way we work and socialize so I won’t even try. I will say though that due to our fondness for it, we probably overlook a few of the more obvious drawbacks:
- only about 10% of my email is relevant
- asynchronous communication by definition is clunky and unsatisfying for most uses
- I have multiple email accounts, and so does everybody else I know so getting someone a message is a bit of a guessing game
IMs and text messages can work for a lot of my basic daily communication without the drawbacks listed above. Is email still useful? Of course, but we’re coming to a point where it may be used more for message delivery versus actual communication, which in this case should be viewed as two different things.
What does that mean to marketers? It really depends on your audience and the nature of your campaign. Does your campaign rely on communicating with customers or delivering messages? Is your audience still relying on email for most of their communication or are they having conversations in social networks?