Email vs Social: Channels Aren’t Social, Humans Are

The discussion regarding email and social and which one is the better channel (email marketing is dead yada yada) is getting rather tedious. What makes this entire debate really frustrating is that it’s completely worthless in the larger scope. Oh sure, email marketers feel compelled to douse any suggestion that email is dying in order to reassure clients that they should still be spending with them, but other than that, what’s the point?

The people we market to will make the decision as to what channel is best suited to their needs and that’s the only choice which matters. Everything else is simply politics and drama.

Email is a social channel because by definition, any interaction between humans is social. It doesn’t matter if that interaction took place in person, via email, by phone or Twitter. We are social, we build communities wherever we go because they suit something bred in the bone which spurs us to seek out others and interact. The web hasn’t reinvented humans. Quite the opposite in fact! We’ve colonized cyberspace, bringing all the light and darkness which dwells within us. Virtual reality will not make people better in and of itself, but hopefully, we’ll apply it to make the world a better place for our kids to grow up in.

All things being equal, it’s not the channel which makes it social, but the people using that channel. An empty lot is just that until some kids start using it to play baseball in. Twitter and Facebook are not better than any other channel simply because they exist. Email, Twitter and Facebook all have their own strengths and weaknesses. The one strength they all share is that they allow us to socialize and interact on a global scale. Each has a task they are well suited for and while it makes sense to predict that at some point in the future, there will be some standardized channel which combines all these strengths; we are not there yet. And who cares if we are as long as we are talking? That’s the important part, right?

Frankly, we spend far too much time fretting about every bit of new technology which comes along and not enough time considering the people who use it. It’s not important what technology can do, but what people do with it.

Stop sweating what channel is going to cure world hunger and make the Toronto Maple Leafs Stanley Cup champions. None of them will on their own, but one of them or all, might tell you about some person who’s got a solution to world hunger or let you know when the Leafs make the playoffs (the latter will take a while).

In this cross-channel world, stop thinking about the actual trains and tracks and worry about the passengers and where they are going. If communicating with relevant and timely information is an effective way to market to people, then why should it matter what channel this happens on? The simplest, most sensible approach is for you to develop a cross-channel strategy and philosophy, giving you the bigger picture and allowing you to be ready to integrate the next big channel which comes along.