I’ve heard too many people say that “email is dead.” They celebrate the early results of every hot up-and-coming social network. People get taken in by the vanity numbers of these networks and lose focus on their most important digital communication tool. Email continues to outperform social media because of its ability to connect and engage with people. Here are just a handful of reasons why email beats social media for church communications:
• Numbers Don’t Lie—There are three times as many active email accounts in the world than Facebook and Twitter accounts combined. In fact, all the messages on Facebook and Twitter make up just 0.2 percent of the number of emails sent each day (and that’s not including spam messages!). People are more likely to have an email account and send/receive way more messages through email than social media. [ref]
• More Personal—When was the last time you were on a social network and said, “Email me about this”? Why did you do that? When you want to move the conversation to a deeper level, you do it via email. If you were going to reach out to a lawyer or a banker electronically about an issue, what would you reflexively use: email or social media? You want to be where people are having their most personal conversations … their email inboxes, not their private messages on Facebook!
• More Responsive—There are a number of studies that show customer acquisition is growing by leaps and bounds via email. I read a study that shows it has quadrupled in the last two years! [ref] Businesses are finding email an increasingly effective channel to motivate customers. As church leaders, we need to watch these trends and apply them to what we’re doing. Email is what businesses use when they want to move potential clients to loyal customers. We need to use it to move people to action in our ministries.
• It’s the Digital Hub—Even the most “social” of the social networks tie their strategies to emails. When someone posts something on your Facebook wall, you get an email. When someone “favorites” a post on Twitter, you get an email. When someone comments on your YouTube video, you get an email. Why is that? Because social networks know regular contact with people via email is what drives long-term engagement.
• You Own Your Email List—Friendster died: How valuable was the list of people on there? MySpace went away: Does it matter how many fans you had on it now? Facebook made changes and the value of your list went way down. [I wrote about the changes at Facebook before.] Instead of investing in building your “fans and followers” on those networks, invest in building your email list. You will always be able to send email to these people. There’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to connect with the people on those social networks, as they change or become defunct in the future.
• Extended Conversations—Social media networks tend toward short, viral hits as the sign of success, such as a “gotcha tweet” that gets RT’d hundreds of times or a two-minute video with millions of hits. Discipleship is about an extended conversation with people, not a quick hit. You can string together a conversation over a series of emails. Social media needs to hit immediately to have impact. Email is a conversational medium that favors what we are attempting to do in the local church.