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Posts Tagged ‘email’

Online Canadians Report a Large 35% Decline in the Amount of Email Received | Ipsos.

That’s an impressive headline. From the release:

Study author Mark Laver noted that ‘when you look at some of the new communications platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and [MSN] Messenger, that have taken off in the last few years the decline in email usage is really not that surprising, what is surprising is the size of the decline that is happening.’

One of the reasons that email usage may have declined so dramatically are emerging communications platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and various Instant Messengers. In fact, Facebook users send an average of 16 messages inside of that platform each week. Those using MSN Messenger or Blackberry Messenger are sending even more messages on a weekly basis.

And the takeaway:

These findings also have significant implications for those businesses that rely on email marketing for some or all of their business. These companies should be evaluating to see if social media platforms are an effective method for distributing their message.

Sounds logical, right? Email is down,  and there’s lots of people using Facebook, Twitter and various IM networks, so marketers should be considering dropping email and shifting over to social networks.

And yet. Statistics Canada recently noted that email is still the most common activity undertaken by online Canadians — at 93%, e-mail was still the most common online activity from home in 2009. This was far ahead of even “general browsing for fun or leisure,” the second most common activity reported by 78%. & using instant messaging was only reported by 45% in 2009 — which in fact represents a decline, from 50% in 2007.

Turning back to the Ipsos findings, note that these are based on email received. The question that was asked: “In an average week, how many emails do you receive (including spam)?” I think that the inclusion of spam in the question is actually very significant. My experience with spam over the last few years has been that I get far less of it. From Gmail to my ISP to my workplace email, I see very little spam these days — a far cry from a few years back when I started every day by cleaning out my inbox of the overnight clutter of unsolicited weight loss/cheap meds/penis enlargement (or worse) crap.

So I’m left wondering whether the 35% decline in email rec’d since 2008 reported by Ipsos is due to better spam filters? I’ll bet improvements in this area have had a significant impact. My theory is that while overall emails received is down, the signal to noise ratio has improved greatly. Meaning that email marketing of the legitimate kind — where people has actually signed up to receive your messages — would actually benefit from this decline of inbox clutter.

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Yesterday, TechCrunch posted some numbers showing that Facebook drives 44% of social sharing. Which is great, except that the cutesy pie chart does not include email as one of the forms that social sharing takes. And I think email is still pretty key, so I went looking for some numbers to test that assumption. Here’s what I found.

Data from ShareThis

Back in December, the makers of the ShareThis sharing widget reported on data gathered from their network in October 2009. Guess what? They found that email is still the most common method that people use to share online content. According to the data, when it comes to how folks share, email outdoes Facebook and crushes Twitter.

According to ShareThis, Email still leads Facebook as a means to share links by a healthy margin, and Twitter is far behind.

This is the second time I am aware of that ShareThis has published data on how people utilize their widget. Back in  August of 2008, they reported similar results:

pie chart showing sharing activity on the ShareThis network

According to data from August 2008, email accounted for 35% of sharing activity on ShareThis

So if you compare the August 2008 numbers with those from October 2009, it would appear that email has actually increased in popularity as a sharing method, from 35% of shares to over 46%. Worth noting also is that during this span, Facebook rocketed up the charts, going from 10% to 33%.

Leaderboard from AddThis

Now I figure that the popularity of various sharing methods will vary from one provider to another, since each of these networks is finding different niches and markets, so I went looking for evidence from the makers what is probably the most common sharing widget, AddThis. Couldn’t find a post about their data, but it looks like AddThis maintains an evergreen leaderboard.

Top Ten Sharing Methods from AddThis

Top Ten Sharing Methods from AddThis, as of 17 Feb 2010

Here the results are somewhat different — while email is one of the top sharing methods for AddThis, it isn’t #1. Facebook takes top spot with a third of all shares (interestingly very similar to the numbers from ShareThis, incidentally), while email is a distant second place with 13% usage.

However, I noticed that AddThis maintains several separate email service options, such as both an Email overlay and a relatively new Email App (which kicks you over to your email client). Further, there’s also separate listings for the main webmail services – Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail. If these are not lumped together in the AddThis leaderboard, then we’re not really getting a true sense of where email falls in the top ten. If anyone can confirm one way or another, let me know in the comments.

So Is Email Still King?

If the data from ShareThis is taken at face value, then yes, email is still the king of sharing online. However, social media (Facebook especially) has taken its place alongside email as a significant driver for sharing content. So for now, it looks like both email and other forms of social media are important to consider when looking at how people share online. How long with this last? It’ll be interesting to see more numbers in a few months.

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Was in a meeting the other day about an email newsletter. Some of the more technologically savvy folks geeks in the room attempted to steer the discussion towards RSS feeds. As in, “why not deliver this thing by RSS rather than email? And you can do all this fancy stuff with RSS, like include images or media… and anyways we hate email….” I’m paraphrasing of course, but you know how this line of thinking goes ;+)

& yes RSS is wonderful – I’m as oversubscribed as the next nerd. But us govt types can’t forget that most people don’t know what RSS feeds are or how to use a feed reader. And they could care less.

Check this research on awareness of web 2.0 applications and technologies:

bar graph showing awareness levels of message boards, YouTube, RSS, etc,.

(Source: Research for the Government of Canada, 2007. Click graphic for full size.)

I find it pretty striking how the RSS bars in this chart are so much shorter than all the others — RSS is the only technology on that list that the majority of people surveyed weren’t familiar with.

Makes sense that a more or less representative sample of typical Canucks would be less familiar with RSS than with blogs, social networking, etc. After all, RSS is underlying infrastructure that ties all the other stuff together. Folks using 2.0 technologies are using RSS but they’re not necessarily aware of it.

I also like this tidbit, from the qualitative part of this study – focus groups in several locations across Canada – which really brings home the value of email updates over RSS:

… many Internet users (mainly Web 2.0 users) were familiar with the concept [of RSS feeds] in general, even though they had no specific awareness of RSS feeds. Many, for example, were familiar with the idea of receiving updates from various websites through emails containing links. This included updates from websites of various stores (e.g. Rona), from websites of entertainment-related companies (e.g. Cineplex Odeon), from entertainment-related websites (e.g. Têtes à claques TV), from news sites, and from blogs.
(My emphasis. Source: Research for the Government of Canada, 2007)

(Aside: wow a Têtes à claques reference! Whoopee! It’s actually been blocked by the IT gang at my workplace, I guess cuz us bureaucrats shouldn’t be exposed to jokes about farts and boobies…)

Ahem… anyhow, the lesson for me here? If you’re a government site and you want people to subscribe to your updates, it’s great to have RSS feeds. But absolutely make sure you’ve got an email subscription vehicle too – in fact, probably makes sense to put more energy into the email channel than the RSS one.

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I was struggling to explain to a colleague a little while back about how wikis could be a fantastic way to streamline the process of creating and revising documents in our workplace. How I wish I had known then about this brilliant little infographic:

(Click to see at fullsize. Found via this blog – not sure what language it’s in… German? Dutch?)

What this captures perfectly for me is how wikis can enable version control for your content in a way that is impossible via the usual email-based methods. It’s amazing how simple it is – just by sending everyone to the document rather then sending the document around to everyone, you’ve solved the problem.

This is an issue that has been bedevilling my colleague for a long time – she’s an editor, and so needs to be reassured that she is working on the latest version of whatever it is she is editing. Because all too often, she finds out later that the version of that news release she just spent an hour cleaning up is out-of-date, and so she has to do it all over again.

Not to mention that working via wikis in an editorial setting would allow you to avoid having to deal with the cringe-inducing horror of “track changes.”

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