Morgan Stanley analysts Mary Meeker, Scott Devitt and Liang Wu have put togther a great presentation with the simple title Internet Trends. You can see the presentation on Seeking Alpha, and this is also where I picked up the following quote.

What’s interesting is that they [Morgan Stanley] also highlight that social networking users surpassed email users back in mid 2009. So instead of telling people to email us, maybe we should instead solely tell people to follow us on Twitter and to become our fan on Facebook.

Below is the slide referred to:

The report has so much data in the 87 slides that I am positive there are many people who will find a way to use some in their own presentations; although the point I am really interested in is whether email is in decline. But first, take a look at the following interview from TechCrunch with BRAD GARLINGHOUSE (President, Consumer Applications, AOL :

Mr. GARLINGHOUSE: At its core, e-mail is definitely I think, there remain opportunities to innovate around e-mail and if you could deliver about these experiences…

Mr. ARRINGTON: What’s an easy, easy big thing to do to fix my e-mail, to make it better, substantially better?

Mr. GARLINGHOUSE: I do think that there are opportunities around inbox aggregation that have not been well executed more in the industry…

Mr. ARRINGTON: Aggregation of like Facebook inbox. What are other inboxes?

Mr. GARLINGHOUSE: How many inboxes do you have in your life? You know, you have Facebook inbox. You have a Linkedln inbox. You have a Twitter inbox.

Mr. ARRINGTON: Text messaging.

Mr. GARLINGHOUSE: SMS, you know, these are still – I mean granted that these are the things in the industry to talk about 15 or 20 years in unified messaging. And some intentionally not, like say, hey, we have a better unified messaging experience. My point is more to say when people talk about this, there’s a very funny Wall Street Journal article in the last six months. Well, since I’ve been here at AOL, talked about, you know that kind of the death of e-mail. You know, the rumor has since demised, have definitely been exaggerated. I think the most humorous part of that Wall Street Journal article is it concluded with one of the research reporters e-mailed her ad, you know. And it said that, you know, social networks have grown – are now larger than e-mail. Every social network I know requires an e-mail used to log in. There is actually data amongst the people – Nielsen did some very interesting research about the heaviest social networking users who are actually using e-mail more now in part because so much of the activity around social networks end up in your e-mail box.

Looks like AOL is a popular place to work at the moment, just take a look at all the new talent they have hired from other companies recently.

Readers of this blog will know I’ve taken a skeptial approach to the “death of email” stories that crop up in other media occasionally, but there is absolutely no doubt that during the current Icelandic volanic ash disruption, Twitter has definintely shown its value. Twitter works well as a modern version of the bulletin board – a peer to peer tool for sharing rapidly changing and evolving information. Airline service centres and airport help desks were inundated with requests for information, but by using Twitter impacted passengers were able to share what information they had found out immediately with others who were still trying to navigate the haze.

Kevin May wrote an interesting article on social media in Tnooz yesterday, and thank you also to the airline employee who forwarded me the Jeffrey Mann piece from Garner where he wrote about which airlines used social media during the crisis better than others. Note that my praise is restricted to peer to peer sharing rather than corporates using it to push information, although I agree with Mann than KLM appear to have made a great effort on this latter point. Whilst this works with user numbers as a small percentage of the total population, it is still not a scalable mass market customer service option, and I remain committed to my top prediction for 2010 on this matter. People do not complain when they receive a email sent to them, but Twitter users seem to have unrealistic expectations of personalized levels of service that would make the call centres of old look cheap to run by comparison. Not related to the Iceland disruption, but here is a case in point:

I contacted Qantas on Twitter and I must say their response to my issue was killer. I received a tweet and an email from Qantas asking me for a good time to chat. Within a few minutes I had the same person that manages the Twitter account on the phone with me. A very personable, friendly lady not only helped me find the offers I was looking for but also spent time with sharing information about several must-see places during my trip. Not only that, but I also received a custom made PowerPoint presentation which walked me through all the steps that I needed to go through to get those offers (this would be great to put on the website for the general community to access as I’m sure I’m not the only one having this problem). This built an emotional relationship between myself and Qantas Airlines. I can now put a voice, personality, and a name to the person behind the Twitter account (same for Qantas) and I know that if I have any other issues I will get help quickly.

Admittedly Jacob Morgan might hit the radar as a VIP or power-influencer (especially if Qantas are using Social CRM), so maybe he deserves a higher level of care than the average punter, but extending this model to the general population will send any airline broke.    

I have now finally joined the Twitter fanclub (still in a very limited way), but I still can’t resist ending with a tip I read a while ago on how to organize a Tweetup which had rule number 5 listed as: Use email.