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My email inbox is my front door

Monday it was announced that Twitter is rolling out more email notifications. Now you will get an email if someone you follow retweets or “favourites” a tweet of yours. The notifications can be turned off in your Twitter settings.

Of course this just makes sense for Twitter to do. Everyone on Twitter has an email address since you can’t get an account without one. As well, people are very likely to open an email from a source they know and trust, which means it’s an effective way of getting people’s attention. As others have pointed out, email is the great connector, spanning multiple channels and devices with ease. That may change in the future, but right now it’s the best at it overall. It’s got its issues which we are all well aware of, but the benefits for most outweigh any negatives.

An old Twitter account I setup and then left dormant has been getting “we miss you” emails for a few weeks now from Twitter. It seems they certainly recognize the power of email when it comes to running a “win-back” campaign.

From the comments I’ve read around the web about this new service, a good number of people are seeing these new notifications not as a convenience, but as an irritation. Many of those commenting have made it clear they will turn them off immediately and some aren’t all that happy that Twitter enabled the new notifications by default.

This reaction highlights that many of us have a stronger personal connection to our email inbox then we do to other channels such as social. While Twitter may be the modern reincarnation of CB Radio, the inbox remains the virtual equivalent of our home’s front door and we are just as territorial about it as we are about our home’s entrance.

I’ve always thought people have a personal space which goes with a personal PC in general. I don’t think most of us are comfortable with someone peering over our shoulder as we use a PC and especially when we are reading email. The perception being that an email message is a personal message.

The front door characterization of the inbox is just one reason IMHO why people tend to react so strongly regarding spam. It’s not just that a spammer wastes my time, it’s that they invaded my personal space. The virtual equivalent of a guy knocking on your door during dinner to sell you aluminum siding.

I’m not saying you can’t get a personal message via social channels – lord knows I’ve gotten enough. However, at least among the older demographics, there does seem to be a perception or perhaps expectation that email will be more personal and more private. For those of us over 30, when we want to really engage someone directly in a private manner via cyberspace, we do it usually via email. That conversation may carry over to other social channels, but that first personal, direct contact happens via the inbox. I think of it as someone knocking at my door and me inviting them in for more of a chat.

It’s just my opinion, but as much as I love social media, I just can’t get as possessive over it as I do about my email inbox. I think marketers would do well to always keep that in mind.

Originally posted on Social Email Marketing and moved as part of an integration of our blogs.

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