One excellent point from today’s Politics Online panel on email advocacy and fundraising: James Wong described email as the hub around which the social media world revolves. What did he mean? Without email, most social tools like Facebook and YouTube would have a hard time engaging users, since they use email for notification and direct messaging.
How do you know when someone leaves a comment on the link you posted on Facebook? An email notification. How do you know when someone sends you a direct message via Twitter or Facebook? An email. How do you know when you have a new follower or friend? Yes, email — in fact, I’d argue that Facebook’s deep integration with email made the site’s rapid growth possible, since it was able to piggy-back off of technology that was already effectively universal. Some people will hit YouTube, Twitter and Facebook daily regardless of whether or not they get a message, but many more won’t, and the constant prodding helps keep the more peripheral members involved. And since social tools need critical mass to be valuable, most MUST grow beyond their core group of true enthusiasts to survive and thrive.
Chris Massicotte followed James’s point with a formulation that’s also shown up many times on Epolitics.com: social channels are a great place to recruit people, but email is usually the key tool to engage them over time. And as we’ve said even more times, the combination of tools is usually more important than any one channel on its own…for online communicators, the rule is generally simple: integrate or die.