14 Common Misconceptions About Email – Gmail’s Toolkit

Slack is Killing email“, “5 reasons Slack will change the workplace“, “Slack, the office messaging app that may finally sink e-mail“.

For some odd reason the media is eager to bury down the idea of email, and put an end to its usage for the entire world. Whether it’s Slack, HipChat, Skype, social network or some project management tool, media outlets are impatient to sink email as an official method of communication.

In the meantime, marketers are celebrating their success with the best ROI results for email:

email-best-roi

 

According to GetResponse, email’s ROI is $41 per dollar spend:

Email remains unbeaten, with ROI still almost $41 per dollar spent. It has maintained its dominant position in relation to other Internet channels, which remain far behind in their ROI results: mobile – $10.51, social media – $12.71, display – $19.72 and search – $22.24.

At DevriX everyone uses email for everything – most of us rely on Gmail since it’s incredibly useful, flexible and integrates with tons of other services. It’s the central hub for our communication channels – our project management notifications, shared Google docs (with their comments), internal blog posts and comments, recap and overview emails or chats, planning and more. Even if we use other systems, it makes more sense to us to follow a single stream of data that aggregates the other channels in a way that it’s the only thing you need, and you can reply to everything via email if you don’t want to switch your communication medium.

While a number of people are tired of using email and look for exciting experience with the next communication app, here are our 14 misconceptions that we disagree with while using email.

1. There Are Better Tools Than Email For Communication

While other communication tools may be more effective than email, you can easily stream your communication through your email as well.

Even if you use Slack, HipChat or anything else, you still need to combine other tools for your version control system, CRM, project management tool or document management. At least part of your staff has to use a bunch of online services in order to manage their workflow properly.

Think of it as an RSS client, including the outgoing support as well. Instead of monitoring 30 websites daily and refreshing for new entries every 30 minutes, you can set up your RSS client, add the feeds to your list and set an automated update so that you can fetch the latest entries from all sites in the same dashboard.

Your email could serve the same purpose, and on top of that you can often reply back and work without leaving the main screen of your email account.

2. Email Is Hard To Use and Deal With

It’s easy to get lost in the large pool of emails coming your way. But let’s be serious about it: every popular device has an integrated email client where you can even add several email accounts and manage your work properly. Services like Gmail will let you integrate all of your emails into one account, receive all of the messages in a central email profile, and respond with the right account based on your incoming message.

Also, every major tool has some email integration, whether it’s a project management system, Slack or something else. Different email services provide a different workflow and level of flexibility, so you could sign up for a powerful and extensible email service, or a simple and minimalist one.

3. Email Is No Longer Actively Used

Via leadformix.com
Via leadformix.com

As we revealed earlier, email has the highest conversion rate so far. Even if you believe that Twitter or Facebook is a better medium for you, email has higher ROI. Despite of the growing social media presence for most people, official communication is better assimilated coming from business-related channels like LinkedIn or email, and people won’t normally read their entire Twitter or Facebook stream the way they will do with their email.

The latest Twitter research for Oscar’s activity in the social media states that The Oscars’ Most Social Moments Dominate an Average of 3.4 Minutes on Twitter:

With today’s average attention span lasting a mere 8 seconds, knowing when to get into a conversation is paramount to brands and media alike. In analyzing the top ten moments, we found that the average amount of time that passed from the engagement volume peak to valley was 3.4 minutes, with the longest span lasting 6 minutes. Essentially, this means that they were able to rise to the top Oscars Twitter chatter for this amount of time.

Compare that to $41 per dollar spent ROI.

4. Facebook Has 1.4 Billion Active Users So It’s More Popular

While Facebook reports 1.4 billion users interacting at least once a month, that doesn’t make the email numbers lower.

Email is required for all sorts of services. What do you use to sign up for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, your PM tool or any other online service? While some offer an optional integration with social networks, the former require email signup as well. Almost every single person on the planet who has been connected to the Internet has an email account, and reads their email on a somewhat regular basis.

Also, how many of these 1.4 billion users are actually interested in doing business on Facebook? There are tens of millions of students, and hundreds of millions of people who use Facebook to look at their friends’ photos, play games or change their status with a photo of a cat or their baby.

There are lots of niches that need that user base for their services – online games businesses, sites like 9gag and such, but it’s not the global domination channel with the highest conversion rate. And it requires an email to join the party.

5. Everyone Is Reachable Via Social Media

Business cards usually include phone and email
Business cards usually include phone and email

How many business cards have you received that have a social media account as the primary method of contact? Email and phone number are still mandatory for business communication, and business owners often delegate the management of their social media accounts to their marketing staff.

In addition to that, reaching out to someone with a business proposal via social media may be tough. Lots of business owners are too busy dealing with actual work to check their social media accounts regularly. Twitter requires them to follow you so that you can send them a private message. LinkedIn requires you to have a premium account in order to send them an InMail if you haven’t worked with them before. Other mediums are often considered as an entertainment channel that is not suitable for business communication.

Not to mention the right way to craft “welcome emails” upon signing up for a new service, a newsletter, or registering for a product.

6. Email Is Cluttered With Spam And Irrelevant News

The fact that email is targeted by spammers is another proof of the effectiveness of the communication channel. Think about it: hackers and spammers target the most actively used channels since it’s their best bet to make a buck out of their efforts.

You can easily organize your email with categories, labels, tags or other mechanisms that would sort and filter your incoming email. Services like Gmail support a powerful search engine that allows you to search for complex terms, for example:

Email by John that is in my priority inbox, includes the term X and has an attachment

You can even filter by file size, people in cc or bcc, starred emails, email lists and more – check out the Advanced Gmail Search guide by Google.

As for Spam, most service providers implement complex Spam filters to prevent annoying and disturbing messages from hitting your Inbox. I receive about 250-300 emails a day in Gmail, and I get a single unwanted email every few days. And it’s usually a contact from someone that found my email for service that works, but I don’t really need it.

7. Email Is Yet Another Thing I Have To Use

By John Atkinson
By John Atkinson

If you are already working with several tools on your laptop and have a dozen apps installed on your phone, you can consider the alternative – a single tool open that has it all.

Before I start a presentation at a conference, I have to make sure that there will be no nagging and unexpected popups during my demo. Since I use a browser for my slides, it’s likely that a tool will try to bother me during my talk. For example:

  • Twitter notifications from most web or desktop clients
  • Facebook chat popup
  • Memos from a project management system
  • Skype/IRC notifications
  • Slack popups (especially the @channel global message)
  • My RSS client

Most tools and services integrate a Notifications API so you’ll have to deal with a bunch of them. If everything is managed via email, you can receive all notifications at once and switch to productive mode by closing a single tab.

Also, given the short battery life of most smartphones, consider how much faster and long-lasting your device will be if your native Gmail or Inbox app is the only communication tool that you use.

Most project management, ticketing or communication systems allow for replying via email, attaching files and organizing your emails via different criteria.

8. I Trust My Commercial Service Provider

When you rely on a closed service provider, you trust them with your data and your future. If you are using a small free business CRM for your business, you have no control over their future.

  • How long is it going to be free?
  • Will I be able to afford it once it gets premium?
  • What if their business model is no longer sustainable and they close the service?

In this digital era of social media communications there are plenty of free services and social networks that own your data. Even if you close your Facebook account now, your data will still be available on their backup storage or even on their official server – just not accessible by you.

There are lots of public discussions and people are suspicious about the privacy of their data, and the probability of it being sold to the highest paying bidder on the black market. That could be the national security agencies or the large corporations able to afford it, and we can never know for sure. This data is private, stays on the corporate servers, and we have no control over it. What happens behind the scenes is unknown.

When Skype was acquired by Microsoft and they switched to a client-server model, that raised legitimate concerns for large corporations – especially Microsoft’s competitors. Some of them moved away from Skype in order to keep their data in a safe medium.

Email is an open protocol. Even if you don’t like Gmail, Yahoo Mail or any of the other popular email vendors, you can set up an email server on your own machine and run your communications in a safe manner. Your data will be safe as long as you keep your server up and running. And tools like SecureGmail can encrypt your communication which would keep it safe and visible only for your recipient.

I’ve started with Gmail in 2004 while it was in closed (invite-only) beta and I’ve been managing my email there ever since. However, I use my other email accounts that receive the email and forward it to my Gmail account, so I keep my data on my servers in case I decide to switch away.

9. Students Now Use Twitter Instead

twittered-homework

The Times and The Telegraph report that Email is dead for today’s students who prefer Twitter:

Professor Sir Steve Smith, the vice-chancellor of Exeter University, said most students no longer checked their emails regularly and were choosing to tweet for help rather than wait for a response in their inbox.

“There is no point in emailing students any more,” he told The Times. “They get in touch with us by social media, especially Twitter, and we’ve had to employ people to reply that way.

While that’s valid for some college and university students, it’s worth mentioning that they’re not really busy with actual work.

Twitter has a limit of 140 characters for communication – less than a SMS. You cannot attach company documents, manage different channels and folders, and there is a limit of direct messages that an account has access to. You cannot manage milestones or company tasks, assign them to people or share some relevant links since Twitter blocks some domains for spam protection reasons.

10. Project Management And Social Media Tools Are Safer

Due to the Spam emails and other factors, some people consider the email unsafe and prefer other tools for sanity reasons.

There are plenty of services implemented with security in mind, but a lot of service providers are not able to (or interested in) investing in top-notch security. Even sensitive services that deal with payments such as PayPal are considered highly insecure – a security issue with their 2-factor authentication was found last year, and Naoki reported how he lost his @N username worth $50,000 due to GoDaddy and PayPal security policy idiocy.

Most reliable email providers implement several security layers, 2-factor authentication, second phone number for security token management, and other ways to keep you safe and still able to restore your password in case of a security issue. Also, owning your own data by setting up your own email server makes you the sole owner of the hardware and software stack which means that you can restore your data at any time.

11. You Cannot Track Email Opens Or Clicks

While emails don’t offer the same experience as a “Read” or “Seen” message in other communication channels, that’s not a common functionality for most project management or CRM systems either, or even sending messages from Twitter or LinkedIn.

For example, I found out that there is the “Other” Facebook Inbox that keeps messages sent by people that are not in my friend list. I did not receive notifications for the Other inbox so when I found it, I had messages that were two years old from random people trying to reach out.

Had they contacted me via email or from my contact forms, that would not have happened.

Bananatag screenshot by beebom.com
Bananatag screenshot by beebom.com

Also, email newsletter services, apps for proposals and contracts and even tools like Bananatag let you add a tracking script that informs you when your email was open or a link was clicked. They also integrate with Gmail or Outlook.

12. Email Usage Is Limited

People use different tools and platforms in order to get different results. That’s why platforms like Slack get popularity, and Facebook innovates by adding other services that would keep their users longer on their site.

Since Email is the most popular and highly converting method, everything includes services that integrate with your email.

Android, being a Google-driven platform, comes with the full stack of Google applications, including Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Hangouts and a lot more. Gmail’s dashboard allows you to turn your tab into a complete organization management platform.

  • You can manage your email and compose several messages at a time while browsing old email archives or previous messages for some details as well
  • You can organize your email in different labels (with different colors that stand out), priority inbox, add stars, create categories and integrate the Labs experience that Google provides with various add-ons that would improve your experience.
  • Google Docs can be previewed and edited directly from your email – read the email, check out the doc, close the popup and continue replying back
  • You can utilize Tasks and add emails to tasks, as a simple personal project management system
  • Social media can be integrated with various widgets for your dashboard – Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and more
  • There is a Calendar view with your coming events – that you could add directly from your email and receive notifications prior to them
  • Hangouts is integrated with a sidebar view in your Gmail dashboard so you could reach out to your clients or colleagues without leaving your screen
  • You can actually call them or do a video conference through Hangouts without leaving your dashboard
  • Turn on Gmail’s Offline mode and you’ll still be able to read old emails, compose emails and organize your email inbox that will sync everything as soon as you get back online
  • Contacts are also saved in your Google Contacts online address book that can be synchronized with your smartphone – call a new client and sync it back to Contacts, and never lose your contacts when you upgrade to another phone. With Rapportive you can pull the social media accounts for each contact and organize a CRM-alike functionality without spending any time researching or entering data manually.

There are thousands of email-specific services and tips that would integrate seamlessly and improve your workflow, which is doubtedly the case with most proprietary tools and services. Gmail includes some default add-ons in it’s Labs component (part of the email system) including an incredible keyboard shortcuts system.

13. Emails Can’t Be Scheduled For Later

boomerang-schedule-later

People using tools like Buffer for social media management often rant against being unable to schedule emails for later, or tracking them properly. I also use Buffer to schedule posts to my social media accounts, but I can’t complain from the email capabilities in that direction either.

Boomerang is a popular way to schedule emails from within your Gmail dashboard. Your composer view gets equipped with a Send Later button so that when you write an email over the weekend, you can still schedule it on Monday morning.

Not only is that a great add-on for your inbox, but you can activate reminders for follow-up emails. Get a reminder if your email got no reply? No problem. Archive your messages and keep your inbox clear while also getting notifications that you have to follow-up on an email later on, which is the perfect way to keep your inbox organized, track your emails and never miss an opportunity.

Oh by the way, it’s Android-friendly too.

14. My Project Management System Is Better For Business Management

Project Management tools are meant to be used for business, and some of them are usable and flexible when it comes to data management. That doesn’t necessarily rule out your email though.

  • With the integration of Google Docs, Tasks, Calendar and other Google services you can run a significant part of your business within your Gmail dashboard
  • Your PM system likely sends you email notifications for assigned or commented tasks, and you can reply back from your email
  • You can sign contracts and proposals with services like HelloSign directly from your email view
  • Email is available on any device so you can run your business without being reliable on mobile applications or flexible web views
  • You can prepare canned responses for support, enable “Undo Send” for sending emails by mistake, get a reminder if you mentioned “attachment” without actually attaching a file, or if you’re sending an email late in the evening (against tired employees working overtime)
  • There is a Priority Inbox feature that automatically suggests the important emails that you need to answer first. It’s a complex algorithm by Google that filters your priority emails, and you can adjust it and rearrange the filters so that your time is well spent
  • You can integrate your email with TripIt and organize your business trips, import airplane and hotel tickets and seamlessly manage your travel info from one place
  • Use hashtags inside of your emails for deep labeling
  • Make use of forwarding filters that would redirect your incoming email from specific customers, services or payment invoices to other people in your organization
  • Manage different emails with bulk actions to your inbox – forward, assign labels, archive or more, with the assistance of the powerful advanced search
  • Display multiple inboxes on your dashboard – just like managing different projects, but in the same view

There are plenty of services that would help your business or provide better user experience for you. But email is not dead, on the contrary – it’s getting more advanced and feature-rich with every single day.

Update 2015/06/10: Neil Patel has compiled a great list of 22 Gmail extensions for content marketers – definitely check them out as well.

What are your productivity tips for managing your email communication?

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