Jon Gibs, VP, Media Analytics
In the past, we discussed ways that social media has transformed the internet, having been so bold to say that social networks fundamentally changed the way we consume online media. So, if social media and social networks are these all-powerful game changers, shouldn’t they eventually make a newsworthy impact on email, the internet's original "killer app?"
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.
Here's what we found:
At least from this small experiment our hypothesis was disproved, but interesting nonetheless. It actually appears that social media use makes people consume email more, not less, as we had originally assumed – particularly for the highest social media users. Intuitively this makes some sense. Social media sites like Facebook send messages to your inbox every time someone comments on your posting or something you've participated in, and depending on your settings, can send updates on almost every activity. Also, it's perfectly logical that as people make connections though social media, they maintain those connections outside of the specific platform and may extend those connections to email, a phone conversation or even in-person meetings.
This modest kitchen sink experiment further stoked our curiosity; the next step is to take a more robust approach to develop correlations between platforms to understand if this relationship is different across specific demographics and behavioral groups – rather than by levels of consumption.
If you have other theories or questions, we'd love to see your comments or questions below. Of course, you can contact us by email or social media.