Replace email with Social Networking? There is a lot of hype currently around the use of social networking to communicate in both personal and business space. Should you replace email with social networking? Do you use social networking sites to communicate directly with your clients, peers or suppliers? In this post, we look at the pros and cons of utilising social networking over traditional email.
# 1. Crowdsourcing
Ask a question, ask for a “share” or an “RT” and within seconds or minutes, you have a plethora of answers to choose from, and as long as you treat them with the validity of a subjective response, you can use this information as you please. I used to use email to connect with my real network, to do research and get opinions or information. Now I just tweet, or create a FB status, and Bob’s your uncle!
# 2. Personal recommendations
People trust people. Are you more likely to believe a review on Tripadvisor than a self-promoted or overzealous FAB-induced paragraph on a business’s own website? Me too. Again, as above, be careful about personal opinions.
# 3. Quick suggestions
Asking a question can also provide a list of things to check out. Again it’s important to take any recommendations or suggestions with a pinch of salt, as they are subjective opinions. Facts can be deciphered and suggestions taken into consideration. For example, when I asked twitter to suggest a hotel with parking and free wifi, the parking and free wifi can be factual tips, whereas the quality of service or food is a subjective opinion, observation or experience by someone in your online community.
# 4. Public display
Have you ever emailed a business to discuss your experience? Have they replied? Does it effectively share your message to those who would benefit from the information? Our very own Niall Devitt recently used social networking to highlight issues he experienced with the services provided by a local hotel, gain a response and then detail his overall experience in a blogpost. This is a typical example of how businesses can manage feedback, and it is up to them how they best empower that relationship. Email contact alone may provide satisfaction, but does not share the experience socially.
# 5. Testimonial weight
Connecting consumers with your brand using social networking can increase the interaction they share between them, highlighting your brand (personal or professional). You can build a community within the global community, so that they are talking about you or your business. Consumer experience is now a key differentiator among competitors. Feedback is evident in black and white, all over the web and as long as it is positive, it can be tapped into on demand.
# 6. Instant interaction
The demand for immediacy, interactivity and social trust is exploding along with the demand for smartphones and tablets. We want to be “in touch” constantly, not merely absorbing information (content consumption) but producing, interacting and sharing (content creating).
# 7. Attention span of a gnat
From elephant to gnat? As an Irish national, I would surmise that the average Irish person forgets little. We can remember arguments word for word from 12 years ago – “He said that, and I said this, then he said that…” That requires a different kind of discussion 🙂 For now, it seems our waistlines are expanding, and our attention spans are decreasing. So it makes sense to shoot off a DM on twitter, keeping the communication short, sweet, and by suggestion, demanding immediate reaction. You can test your own attention span here on Psychology Today.
# 8. FOMO
The fear of missing out! Social networking ensures we are informed. Constantly. 24 hours a day. It can also provide entertainment, education and addiction. By being more readily connected on SN sites, we don’t have to wait for a response to an email. The control balance shifts.
When social becomes unsocial – Social networking can reverse the benefits of being social. For example, you can lose certain aspects of your own privacy. You can post something so easily and quickly, there is often little time for reflection (causing regret). Abuse of social can result in anti-social behaviour and bullying. Overuse can lead to SMAD (Social Media Anxiety Disorder) leading to reduced self-esteem and depression
# 9. Privacy and professionalism
Email is a closed system, whether addressing one person, or a list/group. It is rare that an email gets lost in cyberspace, and is an old and tested method of communication. Unless you were brought up in a world of texting, DMs, PMs and IMs, you will understand the “personal touch” of email. It requires more effort, and is still strongly connected with the essence of professionalism, along with dressing formally for work and meetings. For some of us who have grown to love tweeting and instant messaging, it’s important to remember that not all business users have bought in to the idea.
As a small business owner, I have no problem communicating initially with a LinkedIn message. However, I don’t know many Managers who would. Having said that, I find that I would follow up with an email, and move over into that space, away from social networking.
# 10. Email management allows you to do more in one space – calendar, tasks and contacts
Fairly self-explanatory. We could counter-argue this with iCloud, Google Docs, Skydrive etc., and it would be a fair argument. The fact remains, most mainstream organisations still rely on the solid, familiar, traditional systems that have been in place for decades. Introducing new systems is always tricky with a large workforce, and at times, it feels like a referendum is needed! My experience as a Trainer is that it is difficult to introduce a new technology, or new application, without a proper strategy of migration and training. Some large organisations simply avoid this option, until they must take action.
# 11. Encrypted sensitive email over a dodgy DM any day
A DM (direct message) or PM (private message) on a SN platform may seem private, but is not 100%. Neither is an email, but encryption, firewalls and security can protect email communication better than a message posted through a browser. I have written a Twitter DM in the past, to discover it was sent in error (my error) as a reply. I deleted the update, but it still remained in people’s feeds afterwards. I have also sent an email to the wrong recipient, so there is always the chance for human error. Then there are the false reports and the ensuing panic.
# 12. More personally professional than LinkedIn
Have you ever received a communication on LinkedIn and wondered why that person did not email you? They are two different platforms, and you can wonder why they made that choice. The issues remain with “always on” social networking sites, and let’s face it, LinkedIn is technically a SN site.
Perhaps it’s a personal preference. I know I would prefer to receive an email into my inbox, rather than a LinkedIn message (or InMail) as my email is my work, LinkedIn could include (for me) general networking conversations. Email is easier to manage in one place, whether using a browser based app, or a desktop/laptop app.
# 13. Need a valid email address to sign up for online content consumption
Social Networking sites require a valid email address to sign up, or log in. Many SN logins are being inter-connected but ultimately, you began with an email address, to verify yourself. Email only requires a password (if activated) and already exists.
Tip: Never use a work or personal email address to sign up to SN sites – create a separate address so you can manage alerts, spam, notifications etc.
# 14. Email works across many platforms and applications
With the increase of Social Networking APIs, we have access to our favourite platforms using different APIs, such as Tweetdeck and Hootsuite. We can multi-function and multi-task, connect different SN sites together, and feed from one to the other, create actions such as IFTTT, and ultimately…..get distracted!! Email is also available across multiple platforms, without the distractions (aside from RSS feeds and spam).
# 15. Ownership
When an email is sent, the content is generally the responsibility of the content creator. Social Networking can blur this to a large extent, and we often struggle to figure out who created certain content, and where it originated from. The thread is not as clear as an email communication.
# 16. Company policies
Certain organisations simply block public social networking sites and platforms. Another case for email communication. Some organisations do use the public platforms to communicate privately through private or closed groups. And “in-house” social networking is on the increase to improve collaboration between teams.
Social networking within the organisation
Social networking within a company is on the increase. With many bespoke and off-the-shelf platforms available, we can IM, share files, attend video conferences, blog and comment in-house, amongst other cool things (like share our calendar and sell our car in the classified ads).
Businesses are realising that utilising SN within the organisation can increase communication and collaboration, improve the quality of information being shared and create an informal setting which helps boost morale.
Needless to say, the opposite can happen also. This is why a Social Networking and Social Media Policy is imperative, to guide and manage in-house interaction, and also control how people conduct themselves on more public sites, such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
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Images: ”businesswoman hand pressing email letter on a touch screen interface / woman hand pressing Social Network icon / Shutterstock.com“