Email On Its Way Out? Sandberg, Please!


facebook_small.jpgADOTAS – During a presentation chock full of self-congratulation and gloating — Somebody donated an organ to a stranger through our social network! Huzzah! — at the Nielsen Consumer 360 conference on Wednesday, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg stepped off a cliff by suggesting that social networking (and text messaging) were slaying email.

Teenagers are always on the cusp of the wave, she said, and only 11% use email daily. So start digging a grave ’cause email won’t be with us much longer, she suggested.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one who said, “Wow, that was a really dumb statement.” SFGate points out that the stat comes from Pew Internet’s report “Teens and Mobile Phones” — 11% use email daily “to contact their friends.”

That qualifier completely changes the meaning. And SFGate also notes that the same survey taken in 2006 showed 14% of teens used email to communicate daily with friends. Email exodus? I think not.

People use email for a helluva lot besides keeping up with their friends. What has email most revolutionized? Business. And the Pew survey suggests that teens see email as more of a business tool, an adult thing.

I’m not a teenager but I don’t really communicate with my friends daily on email either — I leave comments on their Facebook pages or text them. You’ll never believe this, but sometimes I actually call them on the phone or meet them in person. I somehow doubt I’m an outlier among late-20-somethings.

It’s kind of amazing how many media outlets just reprinted what Sandberg said without seeking the source of her stat. It’s another embarrassing public performance by a Facebook higher-up — I’ll leave it up to you if it’s more embarrassing than having your founder sweat his ass off while inarticulately dodging questions.

It seems like Sandberg tripped over the edge when trying to boast about the power of social media marketing. She cited another study (I can’t find the name and proprietor) that consumers are 400% more likely to purchase a product if it is recommended by friends. A thumbs up — or a “like” — from a buddy equals 68% better product recognition and 200% improved brand messaging.

I’d like to know what report she’s citing because back in February the Edelman Trust Barometer reported that the percentage of respondents who consider their peers credible sources dipped from 45% in 2008 to 25% today; trust in company spokespeople stood at 39%, down from 45% in 2009.

Still, as far as marketing, social media and email have different roles that are complementary rather than redundant. Certainly some social media campaigns have showed a glimmer of direct response potential, but their strengths lie in brand awareness and engagement. Adding email marketing as a direct-response component can work pretty nifty.

Sandberg was hinting that social networks will kill email, but perhaps she should have paid more attention to Google’s Buzz fiasco. People like compartmentalization: email and social networking serve distinct purposes for most users. Hence both should be used as marketing tools, and both are likely to see many future sunsets (though I question how much longer Facebook has in the sun).

Facebook’s hubris is no stranger to the pages of Adotas — the company would like to be the main portal to the Internet. And the importance of email as a social construct has definitely been diminished by social networking. But to say it’s “probably going away” is just silly.


  1. “So start digging a grave ’cause email won’t be with us much longer, she suggested.”

    So you bash Sandberg for taking something out of context by taking her out of context?

    Way to take the high road, champ.

  2. Of course, she is trying to stir up something and it is working. Email and social networking have completely different purposes.

    Email is one-to-few whereas social sites are one-to-all (or one-to-many). Sending a sentence is 400 people I know is one thing but I would not send out anything serious that way, certainly not anything confidential.

    Email has PGP and TrulyMail to keep everything private but what do we have with social sites? I’m not crazy about leaving unencrypted information on someone’s site. I’d rather it go to the intended recipient and that’s it.

    Granted, this thinking is likely quite different from someone gossipping about the latest celebs.

  3. so yes something have techinc of the search on what want to be sharing apout strategic of the relationship on the location to get any thing know hey good


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