Is there a role for email in a social media world?

With the growth of social media conversation channels, and the desire for businesses to join the conversation and become active participants – some would say intruders – it leaves the question “where does email fit?”.

Instant Messenger and SMS always seemed to be complementary to email – the quick chat if your chosen target was online and available at that moment of human interaction need. However if they weren’t there, then email was the logical solution. Heaven forbid a phone conversation – or even walking across the office or upstairs for a face to face!

Just as direct mail had to re-evaluate its role in the communications mix, the time has come for email to do the same thing.

All of this is playing a role in this time of “recipient consideration” and its impact on channel effectiveness.

From a transactional perspective – there is a comfortable and legitimate fit for email. The online ordering and purchasing cycle is not complete without it. As is registration and validation for a range of online activities.

Perhaps the financial consideration of email being cheaper than traditional direct mail has lulled marketers into a false sense of security.

As production and distribution is much quicker, cheaper and potentially environmentally less wasteful, email databases run the risk of being re-used with monotonous regularity – irrespective of the outcomes of the activity.

Additionally, measuring and reporting on the wrong things such as delivery success and open rates – not sales and leads – does not validate the channel.

Given the economic environment, perhaps even communications that cost “only a few cents” to deliver will come under the ROI microscope. Those activities focussing on greater targeting, more specific and differentiated messaging, with impactful creative and relevant offers coupled with commercial attributes in bottom line contribution will come into play.

The question now is what commercial role can email play or is it now purely functional?

All of the direct marketing fundamentals that saw mail come from the abyss and redefine its relevance in the mix sit there waiting for this channel.

Is that ding I hear the sound of the return of email?

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