Most of our readers (and certainly this writer) can probably well remember our first forays into email. Mine began on the blue-and-grey screen and terminal command line of my university’s PINE email system. The development of graphical interfaces via AOL, then Yahoo! and the like meant (pretty) free and (fairly) instant communication across the street or around the world. But that wondrous technology is already sliding toward extinction. It is too slow for the under 30s who could tolerate texting from a phone keyboard, but not waiting a few hours for a response.
If email is your organization’s way of reaching out to your constituents, the technology is probably suiting you fine – for now. If you are thinking of moving your charity or mission-based business toward the next human generation, though, you should consider the next communications generation.
Predictions of email’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. The technology is viable, and millions (billions?) of people continue to use it on a daily basis. Nevertheless, services like Facebook areever closer to texting/instant messaging experiences.
Matt Richtel, writing for the respected ‘Technology’ section of The New York Times, testifies for the evolution:
The numbers testify to the trend. The number of total unique visitors in the United States to major e-mail sites like Yahoo and Hotmail is now in steady decline, according to the research company comScore. Such visits peaked in November 2009 and have since slid 6 percent; visits among 12- to 17-year-olds fell around 18 percent. (The only big gainer in the category has been Gmail, up 10 percent from a year ago.)
The slide in e-mail does not reflect a drop in digital communication; people have just gravitated to instant messaging, texting and Facebook (four billion messages daily).
Which means organizations as well as individuals must be ready (at least, ‘aware’) of the developments. George Guildford of Punch Communications recently wrote a compendium entitled “5 Ways Charities Will Be Using Social Media In 2011” for SocialMediaToday.com. ‘Email blasts’ was not one of them (though it should have been. How long have we been predicting the end of the book?). What were: Tweet-a-thons, Facebook Causes, Crowdwise, and Integrated YouTube Campaigns on the Nonprofits Channel.,
The details of how to leverage successfully these media should involve an ongoing relationship with your organization’s communications team. But the need to be aware of these trends should begin while the first snows of 2011 are falling. Most of us will still be writing and reading emails in 2012, but the numbers of young doing so will continue to decline. Charities and nonprofits need to be ready for the demographic and technological trends.