Social Networks More Popular Than Email

We’ve been doing a lot more work in the Web 2.0 space recently. Not surprisingly, we see a lot of skepticism from vendors. I’m sure it’s because these marketers aren’t really familiar with the Web 2.0 world. If they were, they would know that their customers are really using social networks and blogs and microblogs.

Take, the grandfather of social networking in the automation market. is where control engineers ask questions and get answers from their peers. Ken Crater has done a great job getting them talking online.

And take a look at the Emerson Process Experts blog, one of the few corporate blogs done right…talking with their customers and providing useful information, not marketing at them.

Now there’s new research from Nielsen that quantifies active reach in the Web 2.0 world. In December 2008, social networks and blogs surpassed the popularity of email for the first time. It’s a whole new world. The old ways just aren’t working like they used to. The problem is that the new ways aren’t as defined and understood as the old. Your customers are out in the wilds of the Web, talking and sharing. But they haven’t really figured out what works best yet. So there’s a lot of fluidity. That makes the job of marketers that much tougher. But get used to it. We don’t control the conversation any more…the market does!

We’re not saying to give up e-mail and PR and targeted trade shows and some advertising. We’re saying that you’ve got to start adding some Web 2.0 marketing or you’ll be left far behind…at the speed of the Internet!

A quick summary of the Nielsen report from eMarketer:

While search and destination sites remain the most popular online activities, social network and blog use exceeded that of e-mail, increasing their reach by 5.4 percentage points.

In addition, time spent on social networks and blogging sites is growing at over three times the rate of overall Internet growth.

Regardless, marketers should use caution before abandoning simpler media such as e-mail or search for social network advertising.

A 2008 study performed by IDC found that 43% of social network users never clicked on ads, and only 11% of those who did actually purchased anything. Compare that to nonusers, 80% of whom clicked on ads at least once per year; 23% of those who did click bought something.

Social networks more popular than email

Read the full Nielsen summary of the research here.


  1. Jim Cahill says:

    Hi Shari, Thank you for your kind words! I try to share stories about how the experts around Emerson help process manufacturers in some way. Sometimes, like today’s post, , I try to encourage more participation in social media applications like Twitter.

    I’d love to see all the process automation engineers using it like their peers in some of the high tech industries, like what I saw this week at SXSW Interactive.

  2. Forrester Research recently released their first Social Technographics survey for B2B technology buyers and found that a high percentage of purchasing decision makers are bringing their consumer social media habits to their workplace.

    I’d add to your list of successful online communities. Their history is similar to that of in that they started out as a bulletin board for IT administrators sharing knowledge and tips and have grown to 1.5 million member online community.

  3. sharilee says:

    You’re right, Jim. We’ve got to spread the word. For those who haven’t seen it yet, #pauto is the new hash tag for process automation discussions on Twitter.

    Thanks for link to the Forrester report, Michael. I just saw the email but hadn’t read it yet. A very good point about IT Toolbox. I still think of them as a collection of articles, but their community-ness has grown substantially over the years. That 1.5 million number is stupendous!

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