Many of us have wondered if and when social media will knock out the need for e-mail, but a survey from Econsultancy suggests that we’re far from losing touch with our inboxes. In fact, Econsultancy says social media is being used to enhance the effectiveness of e-mail.

It’s All About Marketing and ROI

"While people are moving to social networks in significant numbers to communicate with family and friends, e-mail remains their primary storehouse and conduit for commercial information," explained Econsultancy’s US Research Director, Stefan Tornquist, US Research Director, in the report.

His claim is reflected in the survey’s findings (900 digital marketers participated), such as:

  • More than half of companies are now using a hosted email service as the growth of web-based email applications continues.
  • Nearly two thirds of companies are now using measurement and analytics services provided by their email service providers.
  • There has been a significant increase in the proportion of companies who say that return on investment from e-mail is more than 500 percent.
  • The vast majority of responding companies (75 percent) rate e-mail as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ for return on investment.
  • A third of companies are using email to encourage the sharing of content on social networks.

Better Together

Some other interesting tidbits were released by a customer relationship marketing agency called Merkle this month. In a survey of over 3,000 U.S. adults, it was found that:

  • Time spent with personal, or social, email had not changed in the twelve months leading up to the time of the survey in the fall of 2009.
  • 71 percent of respondents reported spending 20 minutes or more, each week, with e-mail.
  • Active social networkers check their email inboxes far more regularly than those who spend less time on social networks
  • Forty-two percent of social networkers check their email account four or more times a day, compared to just 27% of their non-networked counterparts.

"… companies that have already grasped the changing nature of the brand-consumer relationship should realize that this change doesn't simply affect those traditional tactics which are no longer working as well as they did,” continued Tornquist. “As an industry, we need to get ahead of the opportunity, and make e-mail a primary and genuinely two-way channel of value to our customers."

On the Horizon

We’ve seen a lot of hype around social e-mail lately, haven’t we? First Google let Buzz loose (although, prematurely) and then Microsoft integrated LinkedIn, Facebook and Myspace within Outlook. It would seem like Tornquist is on the right track with his assumptions, but then again, we haven’t seen a social network truly integrate an e-mail platform.

Wonder what flipping the situation around in that way would do to e-mail’s glory? Thankfully, we might be close to finding out. Remember Facebook’s rumored Project Titan? The upcoming webmail product is set to replace Facebook’s archaic messaging service and will supposedly come with full POP/IMAP support.

With all the analytics solutions being released specifically for Facebook lately (see here and here), it seems like the platform is going to see all new heights of marketing love this year. If Titan pulls through, it certainly won’t kill the need for e-mail, but it will allow a lot of people to get all their necessary work done under the Facebook umbrella.