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Is social going to kill off email?

Last month’s B2B Summit gave me plenty of food for thought, but it was the day’s last session, presented by the notoriously potty-mouthed Scot McKee (managing director of Birddog) that really got me thinking about the way we communicate.

McKee supported his bold prediction, “Social will eliminate email” by explaining that his 12 year old daughter will probably never use email as she is part of the next generation solely using social to communicate about everything. But this change isn’t about to take full force right away.

By 2025 it’s calculated that around 75 per cent of the world’s workforce will be dominated by ‘Generation Y’ – technically competent, highly mobile, life-long learners that seek instant gratification. This age group is blurring the lines between socialising and work. This, combined with Gartner’s forecast that enterprise social networks will become the primary comms channel at work, builds a clear picture of how methods of working and communication are set to change in the future.

But even though these big revelations sound exciting, those considering slowly phasing out heavy reliance on email in favour of social still have a lot of pros and cons to weigh up.

The pros: social is great for crowdsourcing ideas, content and feedback, asking for and delivering recommendations, requesting and making quick suggestions, displaying activity in a public space, gathering testimonials, instant interactions and short messages are good for time-poor individuals or those with dwindling attention spans.

The cons: privacy is compromised (email encryptions and firewalls protect you), you could be giving up your rights to data and content ownership, email works across lots of platforms and apps – social doesn’t always do this, social media policies vary from company to company – not all companies allow certain individuals to use it. Constant notifications, invitations and updates could replace an overflowing inbox.

I get the impression that low numbers of B2B companies are using enterprise networks for internal social engagement – maybe it’s seen as an advanced method of communicating and. But there’s still time to master social. Maybe B2B needs to slowly work from the inside-out first to build and nurture internal and external communities. If not, as Scot McKee put it bluntly: “We’re all going to die”.