Email: the Original Social Media Platform?

Facebook boasts about 1 billion active users (October 2012), while Yahoo mail has 310 million (October 2011), Hotmail has 369 million (March 2011) and Gmail has 423 million (June 2012). Email was used as early as 1972 and rapidly grew in popularity as household computers became a common feature. But was it the first social media platform?

Some believe it was the first due to its connective powers and its ability to increase the speed in which people communicate. With the advent of the e-newsletter and email marketing, it would appear that email has a greater social reach that just a private message to one or a group of people.

Some e-newsletters are meant to provide information in a recap form. So that stories from the past month or week can be viewed. This is an easy way to compile information that users may have missed, while also allowing them to share these article or the whole newsletter with others. This makes newsletter very sharable, and in turn, very social.

Furthermore, email marketers are implementing “share this” features into direct email marketing pieces in order to make the sharing process easier. The new term is called social pollination.

But can we consider an e-newsletter and email marketing strategies a variation of a social media platform? The most recognized platforms are Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest. The difference between these mediums and email would be the amount of people who can participate in the conversation at once, view the information being shared and share it themselves.

Email is a closed conversation. It can’t be seen or collaborated on by others in real time. Furthermore, it remains non-public so serendipitous discovery and sharing is impossible. The “share this” application that is added to marketing propaganda and newsletters, takes the shared information to a social media platform, like Facebook. Using simple logic, that would make one think that while email is a vehicle to communicate non-publically, social media platforms are way to share information on a global scale.

Do you think email was the first social media platform available?

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