Why Email is Still the Killer App of Social Media

Because it’s boring. Email is boring.

But more people use email than Facebook or Twitter. Combined. Every day. Still.

Email spans a wider demographic range than any other social technology application. We’re already seeing (in our own research and others) that age groups are defining social technologies…more on that later.

Email is ridiculously simple and it’s boring. Across many age groups, we’ve mastered email, whether that’s via a Web interface like Gmail or Hotmail or if we have an email client like Mail or Entourage or Thunderbird. Most of us already have our various “groups” that we send stuff to. We don’t think about it, we just “forward”, “reply” or create new, copy/paste or drag/drop and hit “send.” And we’re done. Boring. That’s when social change comes about from a technology; when it becomes boring.

Jody Williams won a nobel peace prize for land mine activism – mostly using email and faxes. Two boring technologies.

The phone eventually enabled the ability to have 911 service, of which a TV show was created. Because it was boring and we all knew how to dial a phone. In the 1930’s phones were pretty much banned in offices.

Facebook is not an email “killer” because it’s still complicated and not boring yet. Same thing with Twitter.

A new social media technology that is now pretty much boring is SMS/txt messaging and perhaps the first instance of txt messaging benefiting society was Haiti – that most of the money raised in the US, Canada and UK was through SMS donations. In the 2005 Orange Revolution in the Ukraine, it was txt messaging that played the key role in gathering people to protest the election results and promoted democracy. It’s getting boring.

So, what do you think? Is email still the number one social technology?