Anyone who thinks the messaging systems in social networking sites will completely replace general consumer email is an idiot, plain and simple. Analysts, pseudo-journalists and bloggers have recently been spewing some cockamamie notion that consumers will dump their inboxes in favor of communicating through the likes of Facebook and MySpace precluding email marketers from reaching their customers. All these morons have to do is interview any 12-year-old to learn that the underpinnings of communicating through MySpace are driven by email. Want to open a Facebook account? Oh, wait! You need an email address. You might be thinking why I care so much about what this small spec in the blogosphere says? The answer is simple. I’m protecting your email marketing budget and your job. Sometimes the press likes to run with whacky predictions without doing adequate fact checking and the last thing I want is for your CEO to read some half-baked article written by a college intern about how the whole world is going to ditch their email accounts for social networking.
In fact, I predict just the opposite will happen in 2008. Social networking websites will open their networks to become the new inbox providers of choice for ages 25 and younger. Instead of trying to fight your way into the inboxes of Yahoo and Hotmail users, MySpace and Facebook will become the new gatekeepers of younger generations. The reason why I’m so confident in my prediction is the simple fact that email is a daily time consuming ritual that can’t be ignored by online advertisers. And as social networking sites gain a larger share of advertising budgets, they will need to guarantee visitor time. Therefore email will have to be included in social networking’s repertoire of services cannibalizing market share from AOL, Yahoo and the rest of the old guard.
The argument to counter my prediction is that younger and even some older generations are spending less time in their inbox and instead are using social networking sites and SMS to communicate with friends and family. While I agree with most of this sentiment, it’s a far cry from the doom and gloom coming from the anti-email establishment, especially since social networking message systems and general email will become synonymous as MySpace and Facebook race to increase ad revenue. Don’t get me wrong, eventually email marketers will have to contend with sharing some of their budget with similar mediums such as SMS. But don’t let your CEO become enamored by some pie in the sky notion of a digital fantasy land.
—Elie Ashery of Gold Lasso