Social Streams Are The New Inbox

A surprising amount of activity that I've "traditionally" managed via email and other tools have moved to my social streams - which is a fancy of way of saying my Twitter and Facebook feeds.  For example:

Personal Emails

I can't remember the last time I wrote a lengthy email to any of my close friends/family. (A look at my sent mail from 2001 proves that I used to do a lot of this.) With most of my friends, there usually isn't much "catching up" to do because we all post our activities online.

More and more, interpersonal relationships are becoming a function of tweets, photo comments, and status updates. From a convenience/technology perspective, I admit that I like where this is going. From a cultural and anthropological perspective, this trend may or may not signal the beginning of the end of complex human thought and interaction.

Email Newsletters

I started working in email marketing long before it became an "industry".  Not to give myself too much credit, but I was a very early evangelist of the email newsletter as a sophisticated, technology-driven marketing program.  I suspect that the monthly sales commmission checks may have had something to do with my fervor...

Fast forward to now.  I don't read a single email newsletter.  (Well - maybe a couple that I'm just not remembering because I haven't gotten them in a while.)  My email address is strictly used for personal communications and transactional messaging from my bank, online retailers, etc.  I very very rarely consume information, read newsletters, make purchases, etc. via email.

All of the content I previously consumed through my inbox, I now consume through one-line blurbs on Twitter and - to a much lessor extent - Facebook:

  • The content is more digestible.  I go from "subject line" directly to the content as opposed to subject line to an email message often filled with noise.
  • The content is timlier.  I recall recently unsubscribing from an email newsletter because I had read the entirity of its contents 12 hours previously via links on Twitter.
  • The content is socially-driven.  The social stream makes it very easy to find new sources of interesting content.

RSS Feeds 

My feed reader is slowly dying the same death as my email newsletters.  RSS-to-social apps enable content providers to easily zip their stuff into my stream, so why shouldn't I centralize my content?

The Bigger Question

Or at least the bigger question(s) that I'm trying to answer.  If social streams are the new inbox:

  • What does this mean for marketers? 
  • How will retailers, salespeople, fundraisers, non-profits, etc. manage this channel?
  • What are the "new" analytics that indicate social stream success?
  • How long before these become big problems?
  • What are the new products/technologies that will solve these problems?