World’s Largest Social Network

Congratulations, you’re part of the world’s largest distributed social network: email.

[Click "enable images" to see this new yorker cartoon about email]

If you’re like me, you go to the dictionary when someone tells you [thing not usually referred to as such] is a social network. Email as a “distributed social network” is more apt. Some facts:

    1.  Email is an enormous network that includes almost 4 billion users and 5.6 billion user accounts. That’s more than Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter combined daily active users. If you own some kind of complex B2B services business, 100% of your present and future customers, partners, and employees are on email. ((Source for global email statistics: Radicati (PDF). Though it has to be noted that this data is pre-pandemic.))
    2. Email usage is tremendous and growing: 140 billion non-spam emails are sent every day. Total email accounts and usage will grow significantly in the coming years, with total increased accounts resulting from the bifurcation of work and personal accounts.((Ibid)) But of those 140 billion, how many are wonderful? 1% at the most? This is our opportunity. 
    3. You control your email; it’s the only large social network not controlled end-to-end by a private 3rd party company. If you own,, nobody can take that from you. Just like your website. A governmental body enshrines this status quo. The Big 5 controls the email client software category – but as part of the open email network. And subscription email marketing software like Mailchimp, as well as outreach email software such as Mailshake, are still diversified, competitive markets. 
    4. Email is a private two-way channel. Any email including the one you’re reading now, can initiate a private one-to-one conversation. This is why it’s amazing that any but the largest consumer brands would use an impersonal email address (info@, noreply@). Email is more conducive to meaningful interaction than social media.

Switching from fact to conjecture, consider the fact in-person communication shrinks in proportion to the growth of the pandemic and its economic aftershocks. Filling the face-to-face gap: Slack, Skype, phone, Zoom – and email. 

Armed with these considerations, I’d find a way to use email to grow your business.

I have no opinion on email for internal operations except for one: there should never be more than 2 people on an email thread; 3 is permissible, 4 or more you’re wasting someone’s time.

But for communicating with the outside world, I have too many opinions about email to cram into this communiqué. But think of business email as having three branches: subscription email-marketing, transactional emails, and outreach email.

A few ideas off the top of my head to get you started:

  • High-frequency subscription email marketing is practiced by almost every expertise-based B2B/B2P((I use B2P to mean Business-to-Professional, ie, not necessarily a B2C consumer and inclined to purchase business solutions)) business I can think of. 
  • Transactional email can be multi-episodic. I’m bad about this, but when you signed up for this newsletter, you (hopefully!) got a welcome email. That’s a “transactional email”. I should have a sequence of transactional emails to welcome new subscribers; most bigger brands do and they’re usually terrible. Which gives you a chance to stand out.
  • Transactional emails are usually created by software  (Calendly, Eventbrite, WordPress, Jira) which provide defaults. Don’t use those defaults; write them. Write them in the first person and sign your name to them.
  • If you book meetings or demos, you can also append short (start with 2) transactional email sequences to them.
  • Subscription and transactional emails can have a replete footer just like a webpage, as you can see if you scroll down.
  • Outreach email isn’t just for trying to sell products or services; it’s also for recruiting staff and partners, contacting the press, promoting content, and recruiting event (in-person or not) attendees. And all that without spamming anybody.

Now is a good time to do some email social networking – if you choose to do so, reply and let me know how it goes.

Have a great week ahead,