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Stories Matter

December 5th, 2013 | Posted by Scott Burns CEO of GovDelivery in Events | Federal Government | GovDelivery - (0 Comments)

When GovDelivery first entered the Federal market in 2003, we were a small company serving mostly local governments and a few state agencies.  With our team based in Minnesota we were told to “avoid Federal government like the plague” because we would never be able to serve such a confusing bureaucracy as a small company based out of the Midwest.  What we found was something entirely different than we expected: a city and many agencies packed with passionate and committed communicators yearning for the latest technology to help them support large and complicated mission objectives.

We also found tough customers with high expectations.  These customers wanted proofs of concepts and case studies, deep security documents, and demonstrable service level commitments.  It took us a year to get our first pilot client — the Office of Recruitment at the State Department.  Now, we serve every Federal department in some capacity and are the largest outside referrer of traffic to that first client (see referral stats here) as well as to newer Federal endeavors such as HealthCare.gov.

What we learned along the way is that the information our clients wanted to share and the stories they wanted to tell the public were powerful indeed.  Our clients knew intuitively that these stories could drive better outcomes, and our role was to bring the technology and insight to the table to help bring this belief to fruition.

PaulSmith-LeadwithaStoryWith stories in mind, we are bringing in Paul Smith, author of Lead with a Story, as the keynote speaker for GovDelivery’s Digital Communication Event next week in Washington, D.C.  There are over 900 people registered for the event, and they are in for a treat.  Lead with a Story is a masterpiece, and I am confident that Paul Smith will deliver a keynote worthy of his excellent book.  Stories matter.  As Paul says, they move people to take action, change behavior, and interact in new ways.  They are also memorable when so many other forms of modern communication can be forgettable.  Stories play an important role in a communications strategy oriented around driving awesome results.

I look forward to hearing from Paul and the other speakers next week including some amazing government communicators and technologists who will sit on our panel. Join us! I can’t wait to see you there.

Leadership in uncertain times

October 1st, 2013 | Posted by Scott Burns CEO of GovDelivery in Compelling Content | Current Affairs - (1 Comments)

Capital - Washington D.C.I have never been a public servant, though I have been working with the public sector for years, and I see firsthand how challenging a week like this can be for public sector leaders.

With shutdowns, furloughs, and other challenges, I sympathize with public sector leaders as they try to maintain focus and motivate teams. As an entrepreneur, I have had many ups and downs, coming close to bankruptcy and facing moments of deep frustration. While I know these tips might miss the mark for your situation, they have been helpful to me as a leader during uncertain times.  As many of you face hard conversations or tasks with your staff, I hope you find these useful.

  1. Be authentic. Be clear that you are doing your best, and expect the same of your teams while acknowledging that times are uncertain and may be frustrating. No one wants to work hard for someone who ignores reality, so acknowledge the reality of the situation while moving forward.
  2. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Make sure your stakeholders and team members feel up-to-date, even if you find yourself just telling them that there is “no news.” This can be hard if you and your team are shut off from communicating, but do the best you can to make sure you communicate openly with as much information as you can give.
  3. Avoid cynicism. It is so hard when the tide turns against you in one area to  maintain a positive outlook. Yet, even in the darkest moments of a job or a life, there are wonderful things all around us. Be the leader who lets that light shine in and points to it, so others can see beyond the current challenges or frustrations.

I wish you luck in leading the way through whatever challenges you and your teams face. I’d be interested in hearing what you are doing to stay positive and communicate during challenging times. What are your tips?  Please comment here to share them with others.

Last week, I was able to attend the 2013 Personal Democracy Forum in New York City.  This conference and community is about the present and future impact of digital technologies on our democracy.  While listening to many of the thought-provoking and passionate presentations, there were a few different ideas that really spoke to me. Here are three that I wanted to share with you:

1)  Yelp reviews will drive massive improvements in government customer service.

Luther Lowe, Director of Government Affairs & Business Outreach at Yelp, says that 85% of reviews on Yelp are positive.  Yelp is already being used in a widespread manner to review consumer-facing government services.  Reviews on your local library, your state’s Driver & Motor Vehicle (DMV) department, Social Security office, libraries, and parks at all levels already exist.  This trend should be nurtured.  When you visit a local newspaper website or blog, the comments are more than 75% negative or even rancid.  On Yelp, users focus on government services rather than policy or politics and are often impressed with the competence and quality of the service providers.  By calling attention to the positive and constructive comments, public sector managers can nurture the customer service mindset of citizen-facing staff and help connect staff to the impact of their work.

Check out these awesome Yelp reviews of the DMV (called Driver and Vehicle Services here in Minnesota) near my house.

Yelp - Minnesota Driver Vehicle Services

What your organization can do: Start posting “Find and review us on Yelp” stickers at customer service counters, as many restaurants are doing.  Encourage staff to monitor Yelp reviews to learn how users perceive service and to help identify ways to improve service.

Extra tip: Look at the LIVES approach on Yelp as a way to incorporate data government creates on restaurants into online reviews.

Digital outreach: Reflect and respond. You can write short blog entries and send out messages to the public promoting your Yelp reviews, how you’ve reacted to them and encourage residents to provide feedback either directly to your organization or through Yelp.

2)  Waze (soon to be acquired by Google) and other travel efficiency services will reduce traffic, saving billions in lost productivity, lowering green house gases, and reducing road construction costs.

Waze provides a mobile app that allows users to “Outsmart traffic, together.”  It’s an amazing system that combines route optimization, user reports of traffic and obstacles, location-based analysis of traffic flow, along with many other sources of data to suggest the most efficient way to move from Point A to Point B.  Imagine if every user improves commuting efficiency by just 5%.  This is a potentially stunning impact.

What your organization can do: Make sure traffic and road construction data is easily accessible to third party services like Waze, either through open data or application programming interfaces (APIs), and encourage the public to embrace these new technologies.

Digital outreach: Consider ways to connect email and SMS alerts to these third party services so that your customers can get alerts directly or within these applications.  In addition, consider certifying and promoting traffic services that use government data effectively.

3)  Kickstarter will launch thousands of new business ideas yearly.

As someone who has had to run through hundreds of meetings under the old school funding model for new ideas, I truly appreciate Kickstarter.  I have watched friends raise money to help launch a new restaurant and a new children’s toy using Kickstarter.  Not only does Kickstarter provide much-needed funding, it also provides a direct connection to potential customers rather than the previous models of having a bank or investor make guesses at whether an entrepreneur’s business plan has potential to attract paying customers.

What your organization can do: Add training about crowdfunding to small business courses at the public library and career center to ensure more people know about and can access these opportunities.  Consider using crowdfunding to support government projects using government-focused services such as Citizinvestor (see this awesome presentation from founder, Jordan Raynor here).

Digital outreach: Use existing outreach channels such as email, SMS, and social media to promote any nonprofit or government-sponsored crowdfunding projects and look for ways to support and promote local entrepreneurs and artists running Kickstarter projects without picking favorites.

Andrew Rasiej, Founder, and Micah Sifry, co-Founder, of Personal Democracy Forum (PDF) along with many others at PDF, do a brilliant job of bringing together some of the biggest thinkers on these issues, and I’m thankful to have been able to attend the conference. Look for more posts by me on some of the insights gained from this conference. In the meantime, find all PDF videos here, including this awesome presentation on Powered by Us: Architecting Policy for a Connected from Nick Grossman.

If you work in or around Federal government in technology, it’s impossible to have missed the White House’s new strategy for the federal government, Digital Government: Building a 21st Century Platform to Better Serve the American People. In the White House blog, U.S. Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel discussed the strategy as a critical roadmap for government to take advantage of technological advances and ultimately deliver better services to the American people through digital means.

While the strategy is important, much of it needs further interpretation and deeper analysis. But there were real-world examples throughout the roadmap that offered clear insight into how Federal agencies could deliver against the strategy. One such example was the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is “liberating web content” by using a “create once, publish everywhere mindset.” Essentially, the CDC syndicates their content and data via application programming interfaces (APIs) so that information was seamlessly flowing into multiple channels. The CDC example was one of the most clear and immediately applicable pieces of the strategy to me. It’s easy to see how other Federal agencies could provide official content while enhancing their digital interactions with the public in a similar way by automating content distribution to various channels.

A more recent example of this “create once, publish everywhere” approach is at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) which recently launched two widgets to allow anyone to easily publish and distribute FSIS content on other digital properties (websites, blogs, etc.):

  • News & Events Widget consolidates several feeds from FSIS’s email subscription service and provides access to news releases (including recalls) and newsletters.
  • FSIS Policy Widget consolidates the following feeds from FSIS’s email subscription service: FSIS Notices and Directives, Federal Register issuances, scenario-based training, compliance guides.

 FSIS_widget

The FSIS mission relies heavily on public outreach as it is “responsible for ensuring that the nation’s commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products is safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged.” This is critical for the public and stakeholders, including farmers, grocery store suppliers, and more. FSIS’s widgets allow specific information to be broadcast broadly beyond typical communication channels, such as press releases or website updates. Stakeholders or even just the general public can take the code for the widget and use it on their digital properties, helping to promote official content much more quickly and widely.

The FSIS widgets pull directly from digital communications that FSIS is already producing, so keeping the information in the widgets updated does not entail any additional actions or resources. The widgets automatically populate with the most up-to-date news or stories, such as food safety tips and updates during severe weather and recent food recalls. Furthermore, FSIS’s widgets provide an embedded ability for the public to sign up for ongoing updates from FSIS via email — a service that already has over 100,000 active users and that links back to their website, helping to increase web traffic. Leveraging information-sharing widgets to syndicate content saves FSIS time, money and resources, and it also provides the public and partners with an easy way to redistribute relevant and valuable information that directly impact people’s lives and safety.

The Digital Government strategy provides a clear path to delivering better citizen services by leveraging technology and urging government organizations to “go digital.” While there are many milestones to meet, the truth is more than half of all Federal agencies – such as the National Guard Bureau, Disability.gov, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency – are already managing digital communications using a cloud-based platform with open APIs to easily reuse and redistribute content so there is a firm foundation in place to deliver progress against milestones rapidly. FSIS’s widgets are just one clear example of the impact of how creating once and publishing everywhere can provide greater value for both the public and government.

I’m a long time fan of the Personal Democracy Forum and am thrilled to be at PDF 2012, which is embarrassingly the first time I’ve been able to make the trip to see this important meeting of the Internet’s thought leaders in person.

The theme of this year’s conference is the “Internet’s New Political Power” and the thrust of the conference so far appears to center around the Internet Freedom issues, which are critically important in the wake of defeats of legislation that threatened the Internet as we know it.

The presentations have been very compelling, but I’d like to also consider this theme from another angle. I think of the Internet’s New Political Power more expansively and believe it lies in the constant and persistent flow of information, and the ability for people to react rapidly and connect around it.  We see examples of this in the Arab Spring, the Occupy Movement and the Tea Party.  Because of the perpetual flow of information, citizens are now empowered in new ways to work together on micro and macro scale to bring about changes in policies, services and politics.  This has been called “We Government” in previous years—a term that was coined by Andrew Rasiej, PDF’s visionary leader.

Personal Democracy Forum 2012

But the Internet also brings new opportunities for government to change from the inside.  A new generation of government innovators is using improved technologies and the power of the Internet to communicate and connect directly with citizens to effect widespread change in a similarly disruptive fashion.

With those government agencies that are leveraging these new tools, we can already see the power of improvements in the “Me Government” services that affect most Americans every day: from road closure updates that inform citizens to use alternate routes to severe weather alerts that notify the public to seek safe shelter. While these examples may seem small and unimportant compared to worldwide disruptive events, they provide immediate impact that benefits people’s lives.

The ability for government to improve the connectivity of the citizen to government and democracy through these micro-improvements in service is profound because the impact is real and personal (better access to benefits, a shorter commute, awareness of a local park event for your family, etc.).  There are incredible examples at all levels of government where new technologies and the expanded reach of the Internet is driving higher levels of engagement between government and citizen in a very personal way which leverages a positive “Me Government” experience to convert more members of the public to active participants in “We Government.”

Strengthening “Me Government” can empower a broader group of citizens in new ways because a responsive government that can deliver service and explain its actions starts to feel like “Our Government” rather than “The Government,” which is a transformative shift in mentality that empowers the broader public to move from passive consumers of government to active stakeholders.

As we think about the big “We” picture, let’s never forget the impact of delivering a great “Me” experience at the micro level, as that is how we can impact the broadest number of people and create a larger pipeline of people who want to expand their relationship to government into the “We” engagement opportunities.

As CEO and co-Founder of GovDelivery, I’ve had the privilege of working directly with government agencies in their efforts to communicate with the public. We see what the public is really interested in, with data showing that 10,000 – 30,000 people are signing up every day for updates through government and data showing engagement activity of the 30+ million people receiving information from government through our platform every month.  We published that  earlier this year for all levels of government (see below for links.)  We also see the energy of the new generation of government innovators in action every minute at GovLoop, the leading knowledge network for more than 55,000 people working in and around government, which became part of GovDelivery back in 2009.  In both cases, the massive numbers of people involved demonstrate that “Me Government” and government innovation from the inside are already relevant and fast moving contributors to the Internet’s New Political Power.

What do you think? Have you seen the power of government innovators? Are you a government innovator? Share your thoughts and stories with us in the comments.

Download 2011 year-in-review digital communications reports:

2011 Federal Digital Communications Report

2011 State & Local Communications Report

2011 UK Digital Communications Report

 

By Scott Burns, CEO & co-Founder, GovDelivery

In the private sector, we take for granted that effective communication is a mission critical function.  It’s a matter of survival.  If a company has a good product or service, but can’t explain it well, the company goes under.  It’s that simple. 

In the public sector, the value of good communication is harder to measure, but effective communication is similarly mission critical for virtually every type of government agency.  Government may not measure and track quarterly revenues and brand awareness, but consider the following…

"For Two Thirds of Americans, the U.S. Government Does Not Communicate Well about Its Agencies’ Benefits and Services

                                             …Many Unaware Of the Breadth of Services Offered, But View Agencies More Positively Upon Learning More about Them."

Ipsos, April 5, 2010

This is a compelling statistic, but it implies that government communication is about government perpetuating itself which risks distancing communication from mission results.

But, communication is mission critical.  Consider virtually any example of a government program, agency, or function and add (or subtract) good public communication to understand the impact.

Blog-dec15-2010

What’s your favorite example?

Technology is now making effective and direct public communication more effective and efficient than ever, but as you plan for 2011, you need to make sure that your organization is leveraging effective public communication to create true mission benefit. 

And, don’t forget internal communication because it is critical that there is shared understanding within your organization of the role public communication plays in generating the results your organization wants. 

 

GovDelivery & Zumbox

By Scott Burns, CEO & co-Founder, GovDelivery

I have two questions for you:

  1. Why can't I send an electronic message to a mailing address?
  2. Why can I get my credit card statement and my mortgage statement electronically, but I can only get my Social Security Statement and County Taxes in the mail?

If I know where you live, I can send you a box of
chocolates, a DirecTV ad, or a campaign brochure, but I can't send you something
electronically…  Why?  This makes no sense and
kills a lot of trees.

Sometimes the most obvious questions have the most confusing
answers. It's possible that the
privatization of the Postal Service in the 1980s created a situation where
the Postal Service needs to focus on maintaining its $68B revenue stream in
paper mail delivery rather than promote a more modern form of delivery. That doesn't really matter to me, but what
does matter is how a new approach to address-based digital delivery could save the government
a ton of money and help the environment.

Icon-zumbox-paperless-please-envelope-150x175 If government could send the public statements / publications /etc. based on mailing address, imagine how much money it could save.

Government sends over 200 million electronic
messages per month through GovDelivery by email, SMS, and social media on topics ranging from H1N1 to egg
recalls to updates in local park hours. Effective today, we're trying something new that will lead to
governments being able to send "Digital Postal Mail" direct to a mailing
address. You can sign up for free
through our partnership with Zumbox here to check it out
and let me know what
you think.

For the past several years, we've been looking for ways to
help government save money on printing / postage / transaction costs while also
improving communication. There are many
exciting ways to do this. A government
office can transition print newsletters and publications to electronic form,
move more citizens online for "customer service" issues, reduce costly traditional public advertising with more direct communication, and communicate
proactively on ongoing issues so people don't call in to costly call centers.

However, it's very challenging to point to a single piece of
mail going to a single individual— a DMV renewal notice, a Census survey, a
Social Security Statement, a Tax Statement, and say that you can send that
piece of mail electronically just by knowing someone's mailing address.

The challenge leads back to one frustrating issue. You cannot send traditional "mail" to someone
electronically unless you get them to sign up for it. The problem is, even when e-statements are offered, each person has to sign up
separately for e-statements from their bank, credit card company, mortgage company,
city, county, state, federal government, and everyone else.

Our new partnership with Zumbox is the result of a search for
a service that is safe and secure where a citizen can sign up one time to get
an electronic mail box that anyone, including the government, can reach simply by knowing the person's
address.

Zumbox-screen-shots-lg
From a government perspective, here are the key capabilities
we saw as "must have":

  • Free for government to use
    (would be nice if the U.S. Postal Service gave govt. free sending… a digital service
    should provide that benefit even if private companies will have to pay)
  • Can be used across government (if people sign up to receive Social Security statements, they need to be able to get County tax statements in the same manner)
  • Reach people based on their location with
    geo-specific notices
  • Send secure documents to a mailing address
    rather than a larger documents
  • Enable the documents for online payment and for
    "paper statement opt-out"
  • Save documents forever as "secure storage" for
    the owner of the mailbox

Our new partner, Zumbox, meets these criteria and more
(HIPAA compliance, etc.). Now, our
challenge is to figure out how to get members of the public to signup to
participate. We're running a pilot with
a major city soon, and we're seeking other government agencies to
participate
so let me know if you're interested in a cost saving / green initiative that will also improve public communication.

I would love your ideas on what will help get
members of the public to signup:

  • Go green / Go paperless
  • Save the government money
  • Get permanent online storage of your mail
  • Some other message

Thanks for your feedback, and please signup for your own
Zumbox
and let me know what you think of the signup process and how best to get
the public to buy into this.

By Scott Burns, CEO & co-Founder, GovDelivery

Why does communication matter in your organization?  What impact does it have?  You always need to be thinking about your impact, but in these tight budget times, it's important to get the facts on the impact of communication into the dialogue when your organization is discussing priorities.

This topic is so pressing for our clients that I want to call attention to our friends and new partners at ForeSee Results who have some incredible facts about website and communication effectiveness that will transform how you think about and make the case in your organization for the importance of effective communication.

FACTS MATTER

High citizen satisfaction with federal websites is a key driver of
desired future behaviors, saving taxpayers money and improving the
government’s relationship with its citizens. When compared to less
satisfied site visitors (scoring below 70), highly satisfied website
visitors (80 and higher) are:

  • 52% more likely to return to a federal government website;
  • 79% more likely to recommend the website;
  • 54% more likely to trust the government agency;
  • 80% more likely to use the website as their primary resource instead of using more costly channels like call centers;
  • 50% more likely to participate in government by expressing their thoughts.

You can read their recent quarterly report on government website satisfaction here.  While there is not as much data on local and international government, I am certain that these facts hold across the public sector. 

IMPROVE ENGAGEMENT, MAKE SERVICES MORE EFFECTIVE, SAVE $$$

Imagine citizens that are 50% more likely to engage or 80% more likely to use the Web instead of call / visit to get needs addressed by your agency, city, or county?  The fact is that better communication impacts some of the most important metrics in you organization and can have an amazing financial impact.

I'm really proud that GovDelivery has recently partnered with ForeSee Results (learn more) to allow our shared clients to see within their ForeSee Results reporting how proactive digital communication through GovDelivery is impacting citizen satisfaction.  You'll now be able to tell if visitors coming back to your website after receiving proactive messages via email (and eventually the other channels we support)  are any more satisfied with their experience than users that reach your website through other means.  This will create exciting opportunities to measure and improve proactive communication.

The idea for this partnership came from several amazing civil servants including Janice Nall (formerly at CDC and now at OMB) who explained at our user forum on the Open Government Directive how tracking the impact of social media on citizen satisfaction and trust was helping CDC quantify the impact of its social and digital media investments.

Janice led the effort at CDC to make better use of metrics and publicize the metrics.  Along with Janet Stevens (CIO of the Food Safety & Inspection Service at USDA and one of our first federal clients) she was also one of the first to bring to our attention several years ago that CDC's use of GovDelivery was positively impacting CDC's ACSI scores.  (Listen to a brief clip of her presentation at that time.)  Other agencies have reported similar impact, and now we're in a position to quantify the impact at a more granular level that we hope will allow or clients to continue to improve to have even more impact.

Please get in touch (either through this form or to me directly) if you are using GovDelivery and/or ForeSee Results today and want to take advantage of this new way to measure the impact of your communication efforts.

Feedback loops: Measuring results is easier in the private sector

August 12th, 2010 | Posted by Scott Burns CEO of GovDelivery in E-Government | Government 2.0 | Web 2.0 - (1 Comments)

By Scott Burns, CEO & co-Founder, GovDelivery

(Apologies to anyone outside the U.S. for this metaphor.)

Imagine waking up one morning to attend a soccer game. You arrive a bit late and the game is already in progress. What you see is mind numbing. The players all have padded gear on, stop play every time their awkwardly shaped brown leather ball touches the ground, waste time tackling each other, move ten yards at a time, etc.  You can only conclude that what you’re observing is utter madness.  Obviously, these people don’t understand the rules of soccer!

I think this is the frustrating experience of many business people when they observe or start working in government. (See a previous post on this: “Why can’t we be more like the private sector”) With all of the budget challenges facing our public sector, there have already been countless articles and ideas about how government needs to function more like the private sector.

In my 10 years of leading GovDelivery and our work exclusively with public sector clients across the U.S. and U.K., I’ve learned that, on the whole, public sector employees are completely rationale people in rationale entities making rationale decisions.  Just like watching a football game and expecting soccer, watching public sector behavior and expecting General Mills or Ford, will leave you confused and frustrated by, but General Mills, Ford, Amazon, and all other private companies have a far simpler agenda — to make money — than does the public sector.

The public sector’s stakeholders include citizens with a broad range of expectations, values, and needs not to mention elected officials who are supposed to represent citizen’s needs, but sometimes miss the mark. The public sector has to consider the needs of future citizens, non-citizens, corporate entities, and employees as well. Combine these many complexities with the need for transparency and the additional constraints on public sector decision making, at least in a democracy, and it’s easy to appreciate the wonder that is our functioning government.

Andrew Hoppin, CIO of the New York State Senate, summarized the challenges of complex feedback loops in the public sector versus the private sector in an interview at the Gov 2.0 Expo earlier this year.

Andrew has worked in politics, technology companies, and now (very effectively) in government. He was recently recognized as CIO of the year in New York. He’s a problem solver and believes that government can get better feedback because of new engagement technologies made possible by Web 2.0. He has an excellent blog as well.

I agree with Andrew, and it’s imperative that we use metrics, but let’s not kid ourselves… public sector is never going to have it is easy as private companies. The first step to a more efficient and effective public sector is to step back and see its challenges clearly. If you understand the rules of the game being played, it’s far easier to improve performance.

There are so many ways to communicate now that it's hard to focus.

I believe strongly in having a communications strategy that supports all channels, but you should put the most energy into channels with the largest reach.  Email is growing in its importance as the hub of all personal online activity.  If you do nothing else, it is imperative that your email communication strategy be world class.

I've copied below, a revealing blog entry from the social media lead for Ford Motor Company.  Scott Monty maintains an excellent blog.  This entry is posted through the Creative Commons license.  I love the silent e video at the end!

Scott Monty / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Email – the Silent E

A rather unlikely suspect has been making the rounds lately. And while you may have come to know this blog for covering the cutting edge communications and marketing tools, it may seem odd that this suspect is rather old school.

That's right. Good old email is making a comeback. But it shouldn't be a total surprise – it's not like I didn't warn you.

Every indicator I've seen lately indicate that people still use email as a primary method of sharing interesting news, keeping in touch, and notification – not to mention that it's usually the price of entry for belonging to a social network. In short, for the masses, email still rules.

But aside from these observations, you probably would like some more empirical evidence (in addition to the ShareThis study referenced in the above link). Here are some of the recent developments that make me think that "Silent E" isn't going to be quite so silent any more.

Feel the love
Two weeks ago, eMarketer reported that Social Networkers Still Love Email. In fact as you can see, they love it more than non-social network users. It's partially because, according to the study by Merkle, they use the same email address to receive notifications from their social networks and opt-in email marketing campaigns. As Merkle stated in their press release: "we are seeing consistent social use of the email channel, as well as evidence to support the idea that social networking and email use are actually more related than previously thought."

That's good news: social network users' attention is on their inboxes at almost twice the rate of non-connected emailers.

Email Mash-up
But might there be too much of a good thing? Mashable recently let us know that Facebook is giving users the option get get app notifications in email. Facebook clearly wants to move away from an app-to-user arrangement to a direct-mail-to-user arrangement. On the one hand, users will have greater control over what they receive via email; but there's the potential of inbox overload. The good news is that the heavier users are probably well skilled in how to use a feature like Gmail filters.

Exactly what the doctor Co-ordered
The final bit of evidence in this trio of evidence toward email was the news today: CoTweet Acquired by ExactTarget. CoTweet, which describes itself as "how business does Twitter," (full disclosure: Ford Motor Company, my employer, uses CoTweet), has been making great strides in its service that allows companies to scale social media activities. And ExactTarget is a premier leader in email marketing, and their acquisition of CoTweet underscores how email and the social media space are converging. If ExactTarget is able to take its CRM capabilities and combine them with CoTweet's close relationship with the Twitter management, we could potentially see some wide-ranging implications for Twitter and email marketing alike.

And so we don't end on a completely heavy note, I'll leave you with this topical song by Tom Lehrer.

Photo credit: Leo Reynolds

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