E-mail v. Social Media: Utility v. Futility?



The debate rages on as to just how important social media is to the fabric of our changing lives v. just how much of a time suck activity devoid of value it is. People take a stand at either extreme and at all stops in between. Where do I stand? Depends on the time of day and about 1,000 other variables.

eMarketer presents a study done by TNS which looks at the amount of time spent doing a certain activity as well as the percentage of people who do the activity itself. The study shows that a larger percentage of people use e-mail on a weekly basis but people who are social media centric spend slightly more time with SM than with e-mail.

What isn’t studied is the productivity of these two equal uses of large blocks of time. My informal take is that the e-mail crowd is about work and business. It’s mostly about getting things done which is more measurable. While there is an element of that in social media exchanges it is probably safe to say that more time in the social media space means more time building virtual farms and posting career ending thoughts and pictures than being ‘productive’.

Rather than prattle on about this I would love to hear from you about what your take is on the difference between your e-mail time and your social media time. Is one more work focused while the other is about anything but work? Are you able to get as much work done in the social realm as you can through e-mail? What kind of work gets done in the social sphere?

Let us know because we all want to know. That is unless we are looking for a lost cow or something else important like that.

  • http://www.benchmarkemail.com/ Andy from Benchmark Email

    Any good marketer will tell you that both of these channels are most productive when used together. This isn’t really an either/or question. Cross-channel promotions are going to be the most effective. When used together effectively, a marketer will see growth in sales, brand recognition and brand reputation.

    -Andy

    • http://www.frankthinking.com Frank Reed

      @Andy – Your underlying assumption is that people are using social media in ways that are available to messages for their time there. My question is how much social media ‘time’ is spent frittering away hours when they are not even thinking about buying anything but rather doing some virtual time waster? If they are there but unavailable to your cross channel promotion then how valuable is it?

      • http://www.arcanasphere.com AndrewJ

        No one turns off the Super Bowl to drive down the street for a bag of M&Ms or to purchase a new domain name. They want to sit back and be idly entertained.

        There is a lot to be said about branding and making sure that your clients remember you. Then, instead of heading to the Almighty Search Engine to look for their next purchase, they’ll remember your domain name, logo, and hopefully your positive contributions to their friend streams.

        Advertising to people during their idle time has long been effective. Now it’s practically free to do, too.

  • http://www.davidpartain.com David Partain

    I think you are absolutely right that there are 1,000 other variables when considering this question so I will answer from how I use it for both of them. While I agree that social media is beginning to demand immediacy in response- I still feel an urgency with email that I don’t have in social. Consequently, I tend to do more business with email than anything else and it is usually more productive time since I am answering a direct issues. Usually- not always true of course but when I send something through email I am expecting a response back sooner rather than later. I just don’t expect that from social and if I do I tend to have to wade through a variety of opinions to get what I want. Social really depends on the site- LinkedIn for example has become for me a defacto tool of business while Facebook has become more about the personal. I think this will change as network intelligence grows about our preferences but for now I am much more efficient with email when it comes to business activities.

  • Cynthia

    Email is 99% business for me in one way or another. It’s my virtual To Do list, this isn’t true at all for Social Media, but that’s not to say I don’t use it for business. For me social media is more about promotion and networking but mostly it’s purely social. (Which doesn’t mean that even my social tweets aren’t a form of networking.)

    What bothers me is that social media has become a chore on the list of daily things to do and I feel guilty if I spend too much time poking around on Facebook or reading Tweets. I’m trying to change that mindset, though. Everyone needs down time.

  • http://www.summerhills.com Bangalow Accommodation

    Absolutey, email is definitely business and Social Media is definitely social. I used to email my friends but even that has gone now, I now Facebook all my friends and Twitter my casual busienss friends. Email is strictly business, with the facility of attaching any size document, and also the privacy of email. Well, besides the email data miners at the ISP level, email is relatively more private than FB.

  • http://tweetbird.net/blog Mario

    If people/employees spend time on social networks and produce “cash” as a result of branding, then I think it’s OK and well worth the effort. Branding on social media is more likely to produce cash than emails alone. Emails are usually reactive while social media is more pro-active.
    One of the misconceptions about social media is the perception that people are there to click on product offers when in reality, they’re there to brand themselves, their companies and in some cases, to fill their time in-between job interviews. Speaking of which, I don’t want to be late for my next one. Bye!

  • http://www.inboxgroup.com Chris Donald

    I agree with Andy from Benchmark. Email & Social work well together and in this day and age cross-channel marketing is important. Email always seems to be the engine that drives it all.