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Social networking no longer needs e-mail

May 5, 2009

At my agency, we have an internal social network. We use Sharepoint, a Microsoft product, to update a vibrant internal Wiki (where we not only define things, we show off who knows how to use them), and an internal blog. Anyone can blog. Anyone can add to the MowerWiki, or MoWiki.

To make it feel social, all people write a profile with fun, interesting bios that aid us in getting to know each other (which helps, because we often work with people in different offices).

Why am I telling you this? Because when someone posts something on the blog, an all-agency e-mail goes out informing people of said post. The purpose of the e-mail is to attempt to change behavior. E-mail lets people know to look at a place that isn’t an expected place to look every day.

And that was true for many of the social networks. When I first joined Facebook, I would get an e-mail telling me that I got a Facebook e-mail. Ditto for Twitter. The default setting for Twitter is to send e-mails announcing DM’s, and follows. DM’s are Twitter e-mails, but an e-mail starts the correspondence.

E-mail, the first online social network, was critical to the adoption of social networks. But e-mail needs to work harder. I’ve turned off the follower e-mail in Twitter. And I get DM’s now on Tweetdeck. So I don’t need e-mail for Twitter.

Same with Facebook. I no longer get an e-mail when I get a Facebook e-mail. My behavior has been changed enough that I don’t need the reminder. So e-mail needs to adapt Yahoo is working hard to turn e-mail into a social tool.

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

Yahoo mail, with over 200 million users, is an early anchor for social networking. But I think they need to work a little harder and keeping it the place. As people like me drift off to Friendfeed, or away from Mail entirely, Yahoo mail, which makes its money on impressions, will suffer.

Long ago, my Yahoo mail account became my primary e-mail address. But of late, it’s stopped being as relevant (especially as iPhone apps take the place of the need for Mail updates.)

Behaviors are changing with adoption. And the behavior of “check my social network” is ingrained enough that it doesn’t need the e-mail to nudge it. So, where does that leave e-mail?

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