For instance, email is already low on the priority list for Jennifer Stauss Windrum, an Omaha-based freelance public relations and social media strategist who got her @facebook.com address a couple weeks ago. “My guess is that I will slowly integrate the Facebook email into my everyday use,” she says via her personal Gmail account. “Social media is my work, so I spend most of my time communicating via Facebook and/or Twitter and much less time answering emails. In fact, the way I start my day is: Check Twitter first, Facebook second and email … later!”
Facebook did not respond to a query about the level of @facebook.com address adoption, but the social network's press office did shoot back a notice that Facebook corporate addresses now end in @fb.com.
2. Social and email are merging. Jeremiah Owyang, an industry analyst with San Mateo, Calif.-based Altimeter Group, opined as early as July 2009 that the email channel is already the largest social network, and adding more social functionality to email would only enhance the user experience and cause social and email to eventually, “look the same.”
3. Mainstream email is already social. Sather says major email providers—perhaps pushed ahead by competition—are enabling social interaction on their platforms. But those platforms still have something going for them that he hasn't yet seen on Facebook: convenient retrieval and viewing of a variety of message types.
Here is what Sather sees some top email providers doing to beef up their email clients for social interaction. (While Gmail has a few social options, Google has struggled with its social media efforts, and Google Buzz and Google Wave haven't fared well.):
- Hotmail now allows users to connect on Facebook, Myspace and LinkedIn, and view and post within the inbox. Recipients can view YouTube videos in emails without leaving the inbox. The “Active View” setting allows such activities as tracking packages in the notification email and checking out movies from Netflix without ever leaving the inbox.
- Yahoo account holders can connect to and post to Facebook and Twitter. (Yahoo Mail's “What's New” tab also provides other social options.)
- AOL provides the option of connecting and posting to Digg, Facebook, Flickr, Foursquare, Myspace, Twitter and YouTube.