Thursday, November 18, 2010

Will Facebook messaging replace Email? Probably Not!

Email is on the decline as a communication tool, and some claim were are observing the start of a trend which sees other forms of online communication taking over. In particular, some claim, the new integrated text, chat and messaging service offered by Facebook. A recent Pew Report highlights the use of a range of technologies for communicating, Text remains on top, followed surprisingly perhaps (or to me anyway) by phone calls (Cell and landline have daily use by 30-38%), face-to-face and then online with email languishing at the bottom with 11%.
As the Pew team note, however, this is demonstrating that different tools are used for different groups. Closest friends with whom we share phone numbers are texted and spoken to, and we are likely to see some of them each day and so have 'real' conversations. There are then a wider circle of friends who we communicate with online, they will be within our Facebook network and some linked to via instant messaging services aided by their prevalence across smart phones. Email is now the most formal level of communication. It has become the equivalent of a letter in the modern age. Young people will communicate formally using email but are unlike to use this for informal communication with their friends.
This suggests that email will not die, but its use will be modified. It also suggests a more social dimension to communication that needs to be understood perhaps. That tools that can be used to communicate directly to individuals are only appropriate for certain types of communication. There may be a use of social networking for promotion, but it is not a channel for advertising but socialising across geographical spaces. Equally, communication tools are no longer built for a purpose only but shaped by usage and to understand how to communicate you must firstly understand how people communicate to one another and want to receive communication from different sources - friends, organisations etc. Usage sets the rules, and it is not necessarily the usage built into the design. Food for thought perhaps