A recent report about the massive influx of email facing us all day long made me wonder: when will it end? And, what will eventually replace the most popular communication channel ever?
It probably won’t be Slack or Microsoft Teams. With apologies to both companies, they often feel like glorified email. There’s a chat component, file-sharing, and everything else under the sun, but it’s amazing how these tools start to feel like we are just emailing each other back and forth.
Graphically, email hasn’t changed much in years. There’s a header. There’s some text and maybe a link to a video. The reason it remains so popular is that it works. Email is personal, delivered right to your inbox. Despite my own protests, it has stuck around and even grown in popularity. Gen Z users eventually realize, if you want to get a job someday, you might want to start using email. In terms of marketing prowess, there is no other kingpin.
And yet, it’s annoying. Asynchronous communication means you receive an email and then have time to respond, since it’s not in real-time. Yet, if you sit on an email too long in the workplace, fail to respond to your boss, or don’t participate in a discussion, you’ll soon discover that is not the way things work these days. In an instant-on society, we’re all expected to instantly reply.
So what is the solution?
I write a column about social media, so it’s no surprise I see the advantages (and disadvantages) to this multi-purpose platform. More and more, over the last few years, I’ve used real-time chat in Facebook and other apps to communicate with a wider and wider audience. Many of you know LinkedIn is my preferred platform. I communicate more with people on Facebook and LinedIn these days than on email.
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In fact, there are now people in my life I would never email. Not everyone is on Slack or Teams, but just about everyone on the planet is on Facebook or Instagram.
This means, if I really want to catch someone’s attention, and don’t want to trust an email will cut through the noise, I use social media apps.
I just wish social media were even more social. Somehow, the platforms need to evolve even further. Group chats should be easier and faster, not something that only occurs when you are in a group already. I wish AI were more powerful. If I’m chatting with a friend about new cars, maybe Facebook should remind me another friend also loves to chat about cars. I wish LinkedIn was even better at connecting me to like-minded people.
You might think these are consumer platforms. Not really. I use LinkedIn to chat with coworkers, colleagues, and experts more often than email. It’s far more effective and immediate, and I would never know if the person I want to reach is even on Slack or Teams. Even if they were, those are closed systems. Email has survived this long because it isn’t closed. You can email President Biden if you want. His “office” will be happy to send you a canned reply.
Recently, I was looking for a source for an article (a book author), and in about 10 seconds I was chatting with him on LinkedIn. Try that, email.
I’m not saying social media will replace email. Obviously, we’ll still need an account because not everyone is on these platforms. Still, not everyone checks email. The productivity expert Cal Newport has said he doesn’t actively check email. A book author I know named Jordan Raynor has told me he only checks email once per week; another author named John Mark Comer has never responded to my emails, mostly because he doesn’t really use the platform.
What I’m hoping for someday is a digital communication platform that is all of the above. Interactive, supporting both asynchronous and synchronous communication, graphically rich, immediate and compelling.
It’s only a matter of time before someone invents that.