More Social Media Use Means More Email Use

    September 28, 2009
    Chris Crum

Nielsen set out to prove that social media use put a significant dent into email use, assuming that the more time people spent on social networks, the less time they were likely to spend using email. It didn’t quite work out that way in the firm’s experiment however.

Nielsen explains its methodology:

We decided to churn some quick data to test our hypothesis that “Consumption of social media decreases email use.” First, we broke the online population into four groups. The first three are terciles of social media consumption in minutes. The fourth is a group that doesn’t use social media at all. We then looked at each segment’s time of web based email consumption over the course of a year. Finally, we subtracted the email consumption of those that do not use social media from those that do, basically to show a lift over possible external forces. Clearly, there are more robust approaches that could be taken (controlling for factors other than consumption for example) but for the sake of this simple experiment, we tried to keep it straightforward.

Email Consumption

As you can see from the above graph, Nielen’s results pretty much show the opposite of what the firm expected. It would appear that the more people use social media, the more they are also using email. The "low social media consumers" spent the least amount of minutes consuming email, compared with the "high social media consumers" consuming the most email.

Think about it though. We often get our social media updates through our email anyway, via notifications. I know I do (some networks allow you to adjust this in the settings). I know I have a direct message on Twitter or a comment on a Facebook post when I get my email notification. Every time someone that runs a YouTube channel that I subscribe to uploads a new video, I get an email notification letting me know. The list goes on.

There is also the possibility that when people are using social media more, they are actually on their computer more, and more apt to go through and send email. They may get on to check Facebook, and decide to go through their inbox while they’re there. They may do just the opposite and check their email, and decide to post a status update. It makes perfect sense that the increase in one channel correlates with the other.

That is all the more reason to integrate social media and email marketing campaigns. Read more about such integrations in this article based on an interesting session from last week’s Summit.